Erica Schrader

Jan. 27, 2009

JMC 346

Final Paper

After it’s all said and done, the fundamentals of journalism remain untouched

            If you’ve never seen the movie August Rush, please watch it because it may help you to understand my next thought. When I look back at our arrival in New York City one of the first things I remember and will never forget took place during my first experience at a New York City subway station. After stepping off the first “train” I was greeted with the sounds of three men beating on their drums. As I walked up the concrete steps to the street level, watching people pass me by, I remembered one of the earlier scenes when Evan, also known as August Rush, walking out of the subway and down the street catching the beat of the drum through a vent in the sidewalk.

            Although this may seem insignificant the movie is basically about Evan’s passion for music at a young age, proving that you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it. The fact that the movie is filmed in New York City is irrelevant, but my surreal experience reminded me of how my passion for journalism is still young.  As I heard the drum beat below me I couldn’t help but feel rejuvenated about my excitement for the program.

            Throughout the last three weeks I’ve been thinking about what this trip actually means to me, contemplating whether it was going to be just another study program or if it honestly would deliver me with the knowledge and skills I need to move forward, especially considering that my graduation is around the corner. In an attempt to avoid the feeling of “I’m special because I get to spend time in big cities with fancy media executives” I came the realization that this program truly meant one thing for me; becoming a better journalist. Although we didn’t have what you would call hands-on experiences, even the small things such as keeping a class blog brought me one step closer to my goal of expanding my skills as a journalist.

            I feel fortunate that I had the opportunity to participate in this incredible opportunity. Never in my lifetime would I have expected to meet and converse with most of the professionals that we encountered. I have to say that I certainly received more out of this experience than I originally expected. It was impressive to hear what these leaders had to say but also realizing that they to, just like me, have to adapt to this new concept of digital media. I knew journalism was facing challenges but it was reassuring to hear that organizations see it in an incredibly positive light.
              As for relevancy purposes, I would say our meeting with the Associated Press happened to be the most beneficial to me. Because it’s such a large organization, I felt that the AP is adapting well to changes and also feel like they truly understand the future of journalism. I know the AP caters to all age groups and it was nice to see and experience that. What a great organization to be a part of. As crazy as it may seem, I could easily see myself being part of that organization 10 years from now.

            One question that we continually asked related to the idea of what skills you would need to survive in that organization or, for that matter, in any media organization. Often times you don’t consider how important writing can be. Yes, journalistic writing is completely different from English writing, but the point is that it’s important wherever you go. Once I realized that, it made me think about people I know who are not even in the media. They often have to write too. One of the greater rewards of graduating with a Communications degree is the idea that there’s a need for you in literally every organization.  And not only that, but if you have the writing skills, from what we’ve heard, you most likely are a step ahead of many. Although I do admire organizations like The Smoking Gun for starting from ground zero and with their knowledge and skills been able to establish a Web site that averages five million visits every month

            The skill of writing should never be taken for granted. People say that journalism is not a profession and anyone can do it. If that’s the case, why are journalism jobs so competitive? If supposedly everyone can write well why aren’t there more jobs available to match these needs? For a while it was quite concerning to realize that I may not find a job as quickly as I wanted after graduation. But in this case, that should only make me work that much harder for it. I’ve only had two official jobs in my life and both were basically handed to me without many questions asked. Being someone with a competitive nature, this will be good for me to realize that the real world is not easy and expectations will be nothing short of high.

            Although finding a job seems to be a high concern on my list, I’m also concerned about where my print background will take me. This issue didn’t stay quite during our meetings and it was helpful to openly talk about the challenges that print is currently and will continue to face. In a recent blog post I talk about this issue and how I interpreted what a couple of the organizations said.

            As a journalist I tend to become defensive when people have no faith in print. Yes, circulation numbers have significantly dropped, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to bottom out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to see that the media world is changing and growing, but I also believe that growth can occur in all mediums, including print.

Although our meetings with both the Associated Press and the Columbia Journalism Review happen to be my top picks, I also appreciated the fact that both advocated for this new idea of digital media but strongly held firm to the idea that print is still here and it’s not leaving in the near future.

I knew our meeting with the AP would be nothing short of spectacular and I was right. Thanks to the AP for supporting college students in realizing that we already have and will continue to make an impact on the new digital face of the media.

If you don’t know already, the Associated Press is considered to be the largest news organization in the world and has been around since 1846. Just like any other organization, the AP has been adapting to the idea of new media. “The ultimate demand for information is changing and growing bigger than it’s ever been,” said Michael Oreskes, managing editor for U.S. news. Although they have a lot of work to do, Oreskes said the Associated Press is perfectly suited to adapt to the Internet age. While the AP spends time evaluating changes that need to be made, the idea of print disappearing has never phased this organization, including Oreskes.

“The radio didn’t replace the newspapers and the television didn’t replace the radio,” he said. I agree with Oreskes and I wonder what makes people think this new digital media won’t replace television? Why is print apparently the only valid target? I have to admit I wasn’t overly excited about meeting with Mike Hoyt, executive editor for the Columbia Journalism Review. The only disturbing flaw occurred as Hoyt admitted not knowing there specific target age group.

After time was given to ask questions I decided to ask about the priority level of their online content verses print content. This year The Whitworthian is striving to put equal importance on both to show no separation. Hoyt shares a similar light. “I love all my ‘children,’” he said. “Print is going to be around for a long time.” Hoyt also emphasized the important of unity between the two. “Print and online should be a partnership trying to create a single entity,” he said.  

I find it difficult to understand when people think print will disappear. It makes sense that the bulk of media are moving to the Internet, which doesn’t surprise me because I’m shifting towards the Internet as well. One thing I have considered though is this: in most jobs nowadays people use computers. So if they’re at work then why not take full advantage of this and get your news free and fast?

            Prior to our departure we were given a list of all the organizations that we would be meeting with and talking to. Again, to be honest, beforehand I assumed the organizations would be limited to print, online and broadcast media. Unfortunately I came in with an incredibly narrow mindset and didn’t think about the fact that there’s more to the media than those three. I didn’t even know that organizations such as Fairness and Accuracy in Media existed. To my complete and utter surprise the media world is even larger than I expected. Thanks to representation companies such as Student Press Law Center all the way to marketing companies such as Nielsen Co., media encompasses a lot of different aspects that sort of pull together as one.

            FAIR is a media watch group dedicated to calling attention to deficiencies in mainly national news. One of the main reasons I appreciate this organization is the fact that they focus only on news media and not entertainment. With an organization such as this it would be difficult to focus on entertainment because as we all know, much of it is just purely false.

Nonetheless, FAIR focuses on the important stuff. Although media watch groups may seem like they’re out to get the media and destroy them, FAIR takes a much different approach and doesn’t focus on negative or positive reporting, but more so on sources. It’s important for sources to be accurate and real, for that matter in an effort to support a top-down bias. If the article is good, it doesn’t matter unless the sources are credible and accurate.

            FAIR Program Director Janine Jackson said she sees her organizations role as public education service taking credit for raising the level of awareness. The company speaks for itself as it’s already outlasted the average casualty rate for non-profits having been around since 1986. Although many people may see the organization’s purposes in another light, Jackson said she is continually reassured when she receives phones calls or e-mails from supporters saying, “Thank you, I know I’m not crazy.”

            I commend FAIR for what they’re doing and even though I’m a journalist myself, I don’t see this organization as a threat to my future. As Jackson put it, “Not tearing down, just calling for better.” I’ll be the first to gladly admit all the unfairness and inaccuracies in the media and I think it’s important for an organization such as FAIR to hold us accountable… somebody has to.

            For the most part I loved every organization we met with because each was unique and had specifics that not all share. It was nice to see a wide range in hopes to understand the whole spectrum and how the media actually works. That being said, it was interesting to meet with two marketing companies known as Nielsen Co. and Ketchum Public Relations/PRSA. Both are top organizations and it was interesting to hear what they had to say.

            Both are companies you would call behind the scenes. When I watch television or glance at an ad in the newspaper, I never consider that any other company is involved except the one trying to sell the product or service. I also never make a connection with how many people may be viewing the same channel at the same time as me, for that matter. After some thought, I consider their role to be somewhat similar to my job as a copy editor for The Whitworthian.

            I’ve always considered the motto for my job to be this: if I’m doing my job correctly, nobody knows who I am. I think both of these companies would agree with that statement because there goal is not be the face of their clients organizations. Their goal is to make a face for their clients. The only downside to my job, and there’s I’m sure is this: if something is gets messed up or out of place, I become the face.

            Dave Thomas, president of Global Media Client Services echoed this saying that, “Nielsen is the umpire—no one takes notice of them. But if there’s a controversial call you’ll never hear the end of it.”

            Another side of this hidden face is also seen in advertising. Visiting Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising may have been one of the greatest eye opening experiences in relationship to what I don’t want to do in the future. The building was nothing short of fantastic with beautiful views from practically every window, large offices and nothing but pure and open space. It looks like an office that you dream about having in the future when you finally make it somewhere worthy enough for one that nice. But, to be honest, I don’t believe any of that matter when it comes down to your job. You work their not because of what the office looks like but because of the skills you posses.

            Meeting with this organization also helped me to realize that advertising is one of the last things I want to. First of all I think it’s hard, especially if you are not creative. I would never survive in an organization like that because I don’t have that kind of creativity. I feel like you constantly would have to be one step ahead of everybody to last. Second, I’m not that great at selling myself, therefore I would be the least productive person in the building. Third and most importantly, because of what I believe in, that job would never match up with what I know to be true and right.

            When it comes down to it, advertising is basically about lying to people and manipulating them to buy your product or service. I’d rather have someone buy my product or service because they truly want it and will believe that it works. People says it’s all about the clients, yeah, the clients that are buying your services to make the advertisement. I guess I don’t understand how you could work there realizing that you are probably manipulated too.

            This organization also goes to show that if you know people, you can get a job. I remember communications team leader Erin Lyons talking about she never went to college, she got to the job because of connections she had within the company. I’m not saying people shouldn’t be hired that way. I just hope it’s done for the right reasons and that companies aren’t depriving skillfully, educated people from what they do best.

            Although this is not historical and it’s not necessarily media related, I wanted to talk about the impact that public transportation had on my over the last three weeks. Jordan posted an excellent note about this and I wanted to respond with some comments of my own.

            I come from a small town with a population of roughly 30,000 people. Public transportation exists but if you look at the overall size, it’s not a must. I’m pretty sure it’s never taken me more than 15 minutes to get somewhere, and that rarely happens. My elementary and middle schools were both within walking/biking distance and my brother drove me around my freshman and sophomore year of high school, until I could drive my own car. The only time I used public transportation was when my grandma wanted to take the bus up to Leavenworth, for fun.

I’ve never really had an opportunity to appreciate public transportation because I’ve never used it long enough to care. After spending two and half weeks in New York and Washington D.C., I can officially say I’m grateful. Although we walked a significant amount, the access of public transportation has been nothing but successful. It’s efficient, cost-effective and reliable. I don’t see how you couldn’t use it if you live in a large city such as New York or Washington D.C.

I agree with Jordan in saying that although I normally wouldn’t appreciate walking, it’s been nice to experience the city in a different light. I’ve walked by many things I never would have seen otherwise and experienced the culture in ways you certainly don’t get in your car.
Riding the “train” has been a new experience for me as well. At first glance I frowned at the heavy traffic and as Jordan calls them, the “weird smells,” but soon embraced an experience that most consider part of their everyday routine. But, I was thoroughly impressed with how easy it was to find your way around. Just spending a week their even helped me develop a general sense of direction for possible future visits.

If I lived in a big city such as NY or DC and used public transportation on a regular basis, I might even buy a newspaper every morning or read a book to kill the time. But, for efficiency purposes in a smaller town, I think I’ll stick with my trusty car for now.

            I wanted to mention a topic that I blogged about, one that I’ve been avoiding for the past week with pure and utter shame, but in light of a few days to think about the reality of the situation I decided to let it go. But, that doesn’t mean I won’t mention it again in four years when the next inauguration is about to take place.

I will be the first to admit that I bowed out of the masses around 6:30 that morning. For some reason the bitter cold weather got the best of me and I left not realizing it was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I wanted to say that I’m sorry to my friends and family who were jealous and envious of my chance-of-a-lifetime opportunity that was presented and not taken full advantage of. You deserved to be there just as much if not more than I did.

On a positive note I can still say I was closer than millions and millions of people and I don’t regret being in D.C. for a second. Don’t ask me what I was thinking because I’m honestly without words. I keep hoping that I’ll wake up from a dream…

There’s just something unexplainable about standing in massive crowds. I can’t even imagine standing in the midst of a crowd that size with people who supposedly believe in one cause. I know for a fact that the picture I have in my mind is nothing compared to what my friends probably experienced that morning.

But, ever since I arrived in the nation’s capital the experience has been nothing but surreal. For a while it was extremely hard to believe that I was among the masses. Sirens constantly sounding off and vendors lining the streets selling t-shirts and hats in hopes to make you feel part of the movement. Just like the buzz in New York City, I once again got caught up here in Washington D.C.

Today, after hours of contemplating and hating myself, I realized that I didn’t have to be at the inauguration to feel like I’m part of the movement. Don’t get me wrong, it would have been spectacular, but it’s not about owning Obama memorabilia and standing in a crowd for an extended amount of hours. It’s about this country and how Obama plans to change it. My generation is responsible for a greater portion of his victory, what else could I ever ask for?

For history’s purposes consider this: George W. Bush’s inauguration attendance reached somewhere around half a million. Obama’s reached a few million. Everyone keeps saying history has been made and it’s exciting to say they’re right… and up until this evening I thought I had missed it. Yes, I didn’t attend the inauguration, but I still remain part of the history that lead to this glorious day.

            Finally, I wanted to talk about my experience at the holocaust museum. To be completely honest, I’m not a history buff and I never intend to be. Although I appreciate it, there are times when it’s difficult for me to understand it and see why it’s relevant to my life right now. I always ask the question of whether or not experience a part of history will have enough of an effect making it worthy to explore. Well, let’s just say that I found the answer.

           Yesterday I experienced the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in a way I wasn’t expecting. Of course I knew it would be heart-wrenching to see what these people experienced, but I never thought it would hit me so hard.
            First, thank you to the museum and all the donors who made this a place worthy of remembering.

As most of us who visited might say, one thing I visually remembering seeing consistently throughout was the quote by Elie Wiesel saying, “For the dead and the living we must bear witness.” I keep thinking, how could you not? Well, I’ve been to this museum before and clearly didn’t remember much of it. In my own life I’m really bothered when I can’t do anything in certain situations. In this case, I literally can’t. But I started to think about other things that I do and realized that I can contribute in other ways.
            Adolf Hitler, the man responsible for this tragedy, served as Chancellor from 1933-1945 followed by what we would call the President of Germany from 1934-1945. He joined the Nazi Party in 1920 and made his way claiming leadership shortly after in 1921. This led to his appointment as Chancellor in 1933. It is believed that under his leadership six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
            As for the museum, it was like this never ending stretch of darkness adorning the walls on both sides. I remember seeing the tattoo display and wondering what the prisoners were thinking when stamped with a number. Up until this year’s election I’ve always felt like just a small face in the crowd… but this is serious, it’s not a vote, it’s a live human being. I also vividly remember walking through the dark and empty rail car that was on display in the middle of the museum. Chills ran through my body as I stepped inside. Prisoners were subjected to starvation, illness and at times, freezing temperatures.
This is pure insanity.
            I also recall reading an excerpt that was written on the wall on a partial quote from Hitler speaking to his military leaders on August 22, 1939. “I have issued the command—and I’ll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by a firing squad—that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy,” he said. How can anyone think this way? I don’t believe a human being could be filled with this much hatred. You what this quote means, so I’ll leave it at that.
            It’s hard to fully grasp how this happened. I think about surrounding countries and, with pure frustration and anger, wonder why nothing was done. How could they sit back and do NOTHING? Maybe someone can provide an explanation because I certainly don’t get it. We see the Holocaust as a historical event but fail to recognize that was the culture, that’s how things were during that time and nothing could be done about it.
            Although I can’t bear witness to this event, I can bear witness to a current situation. Mission work is incredibly important to me and I want to help those in need. The situation in Darfur is scary and although it’s still going on, people all over the world are contributing in many ways. As a direct result of what I experienced yesterday, I want to be an advocate for genocide in Darfur.

            In conclusion I can say that I learned what it means to be passionate about your work because in the end, that’s what matters most. Our final meeting happened to be with Paula Kerger, president and CEO of PBS. I have a great appreciation for people like Kerger who ultimately put their viewers before themselves. Her humble but professional nature made our meeting so much more enjoyable and allowed us to be free in asking the good questions and also provided us with some great information that we wouldn’t have known otherwise.

One of the great things about PBS is that because they are a top organization they move fast and have the ability to adapt to change faster than most. Until the other day I did not know that PBS actually created things such as HD and closed captioning.

PBS also recognizes the need for some younger staff. We are the future and we have a great shot at being the new face of media.

Non-profit can be a hard business to work in but if you have the right passion for your work, it could be the ultimate reward in your career. I respect PBS and all the credibility they’ve built up to become the organization that they are.