Old printosaur learns new tricks
After 30 years in the newsroom, an ink-stained wretch returned to the classroom. On the syllabus: studio classes in audio, video, Flash, as well as academic study of the business and legal challenges confronting her fast-evolving craft.
When I started out in the newspaper business, the highest-tech device in the newsroom was the police scanner that chattered incessantly from the assistant city editor's desk. We typed our stories on "books" -- sheets of newsprint with carbon paper in between. There'd be a copy for the city desk, one for the copy desk and one for the composing room. When I left the office on assignment, I carried a notebook, a couple of pens and pencils, and enough dimes for the pay phone that I would use to call in my story.
how times change
Now it seems I can't go anywhere without: a laptop, plus cord for recharging; an iPhone, plus cord for recharging; an ethernet cable; a digital recorder; a microphone; a mult plug, plus, if I'm feeling ambitious, a camera and a tripod. Oh and let's not forget the notebook, the pens and the pencils -- but I no longer need the dimes.
I came to the newsroom as an English major, and I used to believe that journalists needed no more training than what we picked up on the job.
Technology has changed all that. It has turned reporters into photographers, photographers into reporters, and all of us into videographers, compositors and pressmen,and forced us to become literate in the computer programs and adept at the equipment necessary to do all that. So hands-on studio courses become important.
Technology has also made the media more pervasive and invasive than ever. And that requires deeper thinking about questions of law and ethics. Technology also has made the media, at least the mainstream variety, less profitable than ever. And that requires some study of business, and the models that will help keep open that channels of communication that make our democracy vibrant.
building a surfboard
I went back to school because of all that and because of what I had learned in many, many years as a journalist.
I have covered the demise of the steel industry in Pittsburgh, my hometown; I watched the oil industry weather a downturn (hard to believe the current era of $100-a-barrel-plus oil) for The Houston Post, and, as a Knight Fellow at Stanford University, I spent an interesting nine months living among the intellectual pioneers of the Information Age at the headwaters of the Silicon Valley.
All of those experiences -- some positively and some negatively -- reinforced the same lesson: We will all see sweeping changes in our lives. For some, the tidal wave will be devastating. But for those who see the wave coming and build a surfboard to ride it out, change will be exhilarating.
This web page is my surfboard. I have built it with my writing ability, journalistic values, native curiosity and an open mind -- attributes which I hope will never be obsolete.