Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Editor of Catholic San Francisco Drops By

Dan Morris-Young visited the class today. I think the visit was a success. What I'd hoped for was that he'd make writing for his newspaper attractive; that is, I hoped the kind of stories he was interested in getting from our students would be stories the students would welcome the opportunity to do. Journalism is not a career, right? It's an excuse.

If his ideas were dull -- religious; narrow; implicitly unbalanced; doctrinaire -- I would not have blamed the students for tuning him out even though a real clip (as we used to call them back in the day) is useful. When it comes to pitching stories to editors, clips are like rabbits: They breed.

I'd talked with him several times before, and he sounded like he knew what he was talking about -- I mean, he sounded like a real journalist, a pro -- but I didn't want to pump him beforehand about exactly what stories he was going to suggest. I didn't want to appear to lack faith! Didn't want to appear *rude.*

To sum up, I liked his story ideas. What hot current issue (he seemed to say) couldn't be turned into a story simply by asking kids, and faculty, at a Catholic college -- no matter what their religious inclination -- what their opinions are and why? Gay marriage; abortion; stem-cell research; the war -- he seemed game for anything, though that could have been his sales pitch. Hope not. Won't know till students actually turn in some copy.

What I'd like to know, of course, is whether or not the kids "read" what he was offering the way I did. Or was I projecting? I've encouraged them and offered extra credit -- even if their stories don't make print. Now I'll keep my mouth shut.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Why I Worry about Student Journalists Doing Long Profiles

I worry because even supposedly hardened and experienced political reporters are influenced by superficial acts of friendship that are actually transparent acts of manipulation. (I'm copying from Atrios here.)

Tucker Carlson writing in his book about the 2000 campaign:

McCain ran an entire presidential campaign aimed primarily at journalists. He understood that the first contest in a presidential race is always the media primary. He campaigned hard to win it. To a greater degree than any candidate in thirty years, McCain offered reporters the three things they want most: total access all the time, an endless stream of amusing quotes, and vast quantities of free booze.


I saw reporters call McCain "John," sometimes even to his face and in public. I heard others, usually at night in the hotel bar, slip into the habit of referring to the McCain campaign as "we"- as in, "I hope we kill Bush." It was wrong, but it was hard to resist.