About That Book

I think I should finally discuss my class’s textbook: The News About the News: American Journalism in Peril. Keeping with my recent cheery mood, and suitable for the nice-enough-for-March weather, I’ll say what I like for now. Chapter Three has definitely been one of my favorites (probably my absolute favorite–but I’ve yet to finish the whole thing, so I’ll try to keep hope). It’s titled “News That Makes a Difference”.

When I decided to major in journalism, I told myself I’ll write anything for anyone whenever I can–but I will never write for a tabloid. Most written material matters in some way, big or small, for entertainment or exposure and everything in between; but tabloids are distinctly worthless. I don’t care who’s pregnant or gaining weight or losing weight or getting married or getting divorced or suing the paparazzi–things like that happen to normal people every day (except that last item). Celebrities frequently aren’t worthy news subjects; when they are in the news they should be doing something so exceptional a normal person would be equally exalted or abhorred for doing the same.

As the chapter explains, not every big story is Watergate-level scandal–sometimes it’s something interesting (and a bit suspicious), like Scientology becoming tax-exempt. Journalism can dig deeper into subjects normal people don’t get to experience on a daily basis–or maybe it’s something we all experience on a daily basis, but never think about until it’s shown in a different light–exemplified in the well-known article on ketchup (main point being: there’s a hundred different flavors of mustard, but only one ketchup–excluding the mistaken foray into green & purple varieties in the ’90s, but let’s pretend that didn’t happen).

I want what I write to matter. Somehow. To anyone, even one person, a little bit. And the first person my writing should matter to is me. Because if I don’t care, I can’t make anyone else care. So here it is, in writing, my promise on making my work matter: I will never write bad tabloid articles. I will write about anything else in the world, because anything else in the world will matter more.

Paper Plate Culture

Twitter is not my thing. I’ve known this for years, and that is why I never had one–until half an hour ago. The first sentence of this post is an echo of my first tweet. https://twitter.com/JournaIistish

Twitter enables people to be connected–it lets common people feel closer to celebrities; it lets jokes be passed around; hoaxes and rumors are perpetuated; information and life and art is shared. But Twitter, and its cousins, are contributing to what I call “Paper Plate Culture”. Generation Y (that’s anyone born from the late 80s to 2000) has grown up in a very advantageous stage of a technological revolution: cell phones are commonplace, TVs (usually more than one) in every home, personal computers for every member of the family. And as our technology evolves, so does the way we interact with the environment–and the way it interacts with us. Twitter, Vines, Instagram, and even Tumblr (the “Twitters” of videos, photography, and blogs, respectively) all serve basically the same purpose: condense information. Only see what you want, when you want, and as little of it as possible while still being entertained.

Condensing information lets you know more about the world, and faster; the sacrifice comes in quality. Now, a Vine (a video capped at a mere six seconds) can be funny, enjoyable, informative, even artistic and amazing. But after you watch a six second loop a few times, share it with a few friends, where does it go? Virtually, nowhere. It will sit on the internet collecting views, then fade into vagueness and virtual dust. Tweets can be poignant, heartbreaking, thrilling, evocative–but after retweeting, how often do you remember it? Unless some scandal arises, most of these tiny posts are soon forgotten. Paper Plate Culture: use something once, throw it away.

Paper plates have their place–perfect for picnics! great when you don’t want to do dishes!–but imagine never being able to eat off a real plate again. You’re relegated to having breakfast, lunch, and dinner off of a pulverized, de-pulpled and flattened tree carcass for the rest of your life. It’s a bit sad, isn’t it?

Brevity saves money, time, effort, and forces you to think extremely critically about what is necessary when you share something you’ve created. However, there is always going to be a corner of the market who hold onto that silly nostalgia of wanting to keep things, to contribute to or witness a part of history that will last; those who want to savor every meal using fine china and silverware and cloth napkins and candles and they’re frivolous for sure, but they’re also going to love every last bite.