Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Fame, Bachs of journalism- diary of a journalism educator

Fame - you're going to love it but really on

The line is peachy. In the film Fame, a young performer rails against Bach. He's boring he says.

His teacher counters with an apology that 300 hundred years on, will anyone even know who Victor  (the student) is, let alone recall any of his music.

The enduring appeal of Bach is not that he is Bach (famous, is how he may be known) , but that his music is technically and creatively brilliant.

Standing on the shoulders of giant: the saying is well worn enough in the creative arts: poetry, dancing, acting, painting - and then it trails off.

In storytelling you might study Hitchcock, Luc Godard or Ozu; giants, and then there's journalism. You know where I'm going.

Do you know your Munroe from  Murrow? Is Pulitzer the brand name for a prize? What of  Nellie Bly, Veronica Guerin or any number of countless exceptionally talented journalists whose words create indelible worlds, whose voices cut the torpid air, whose resilience shone through their craft?

What of them?

For all sorts of reasons they may not figure. In the digital age often information of sorts and witticisms may lead you the blog, a host in fact and there's not a lot wrong with that.

Writing is indeed a living art, evolving in tempo and style, and modernity has yielded new exemplars, but then...!

Teach me
As a journalism educator, you might have come across this one: "You're my teacher, teach me". On the odd occasion it's because a student was not sure what words to use as a tag, or the button to press that will post the blog.

There's a bigger challenge I might counter afterwards, one that removes you from literally the "button push" of journalism and requires diving into that rich past world - the place where critical theory is formed.

Learn this and absorb that, but you negate the giants at your folly. In a digital world flooded with information and absorbing more by the second, the years ahead, experts cite, will be about selectivity and sharing - as if we weren't doing that already.

No, the years ahead, in part to stand out, in order to find a business model for journalism will steer to  the sort of content/form and writing that made generations stay awake, made you cut out passages from a newspaper, made your revisit a thesaurus, search out more of the author's writings, spend an eternity on YouTube watching their technique.


Interestingly we're entering what's the equivalent of the holo-deck for agenda theory. Where once journalism's professionals set the agenda for us, if you believe in these claims.

Now we're in a user-agenda theory - a quasi world unformed fully but an echo chamber of agenda theory, where arguably main stream still plays and we participate.  Next year philosopher Jacque Ranciere's Politics of the aesthetics is about to expand into your living room -as Youtube, Apple and Google subsume the physical television.

Look forward, it's never been so prescient, but look back too, not for nostalgia, but to appreciate, learn from and endevaor to stand on the Bach's of journalism.