Saturday, December 23, 2006

Sara Robinson on Journalism

From Orcinus, Dave Neiwert's blog...

Sara Robinson has worked as an editor or columnist for several national magazines, on beats as varied as sports, travel, and the Olympics; and has contributed to over 80 computer games for EA, Lucasfilm, Disney, and many other companies. A native of California's High Sierra, she spent 20 years in Silicon Valley before moving to Vancouver, BC in 2004. Her lifelong interest in the social effects of authoritarianism have most recently led her to pursue the MS in Futures Studies at the University of Houston. She's also a student member of the Association of Professional Futurists, and member of the Accelerated Studies Foundation advisory board on social and cultural issues. For fun, she raises kids and travels.

Today's essay is another gem. She traces how the profession of journalism has morphed from a fairly coarse but specialized, rough-and-tumble craft to the insipid world of commerce-driven platitudes it has become. As I read I think of how the food business has undergone much the same change. The similarities are not as odd as one might think. When I began thirty-five years ago the idea of "cooking" or "butchering" were everyday jobs, and retailing was so fragmented that imported cheeses were only sold in specialty shops. The same cheeses are now sold in any good grocery store, butchering and cooking are becoming lost arts and our children not only have no idea where food comes from, they no longer care.

This may be the complaining of an old guy looking backward and not wanting to embrace the future, but I know that before my eyes I have seen part of our culture vanish, never to be recovered, except for the eccentric few who stubbornly cling to part of the past. As an aside, my Wife just asked me as I wrote about asiago. She is planning something special for Christmas and is thinking about some kind of home made bread with asiago cheese. Sounds excellent, but my guess is that not one person out of a thousand has ever heard of asiago, much less used it in cooking. Sigh. ...but I digress.

Go read Why I Blog: A Romance by Sara Robinson. She's excellent. (As you read, think of what that idiot wrote the other day that actually appeared on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal.)

Dave and I, here on the cusp of geezerhood ourselves, are probably as young as you can be and still have any memory at all of those old working-class reporters. My college newswriting teachers were among the last of this breed, mostly LA Times and NBC warhorses who'd been put out to pasture to teach us new cubs the basics. (I'm remembering the Times' Nieson Himmel, a vast and legendary gnome of a man who had provided the Times' coverage of the Black Dahlia back in the 40s-- a notorious curmudgeon who left ashes from his stogie alongside his red pen marks on my Newswriting 101 papers.) And it's possible that, as rural kids who came to the trade without much more to our credit than a way with words, we have more in common with the reporters of that lost generation than we do with the smooth and politic journalists of our own.

Unlike Dave, my newsroom years were limited and undistinguished. I decamped early on for the brothels of corporate communications, with occasional dips into magazine work. The kind of newspaper work I'd set out to do was rapidly vanishing anyway; and as the years passed, I realized that my old professors had lived through some golden years that were gone, and would not likely be coming back again.

No, that's not the end. Sara Robinson has a happy ending and bloggers everywhere can take heart. As that line in Desiderata has it "...even the dull and ignorant. They, too, have their story." Hoots the Dull signing off here. Have a nice day.

No comments: