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NEWS FLASH: Good times for journalism

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featureclass.jpg Future Sun-Times reporters (L to R) Madeline Asebrook, Ashley Thomas and Zayil Cuaya

5 p.m. Sept. 25----

With the current climate inside and outside a newspaper it is hard to buck up and be optimistic in front of a group of journalism students at a major university. But that is what I did Wednesday afternoon when I landed in the front row of Patty Lamberti's "Feature and Opinion Writing" class at Loyola University in Chicago.

I hope I inspired the students half as much as they inspired me.
When I asked the class how many read a daily newspaper, nearly 80 per cent raised their hand. And while they have more media options (Blogs, fanzines, podcasts, YouTube) than I had growing up in journalism, most of them were loyal to print. They get it.........

There are 19 students in Lamberti's class. They are all between the ages of 20-22. One student is 24 years old. [Note: these were undergrad journalism students. Lamberti teaches a morning class of non--journalism students and when she asked the same newspaper question, not one raised their hand.]
Of course newspapers are not what they used to be.
We are no longer the primary source of information. By the time people get to work, they have the 'who, what, when, where" that was taught in trad j-school.
So what can newspapers give them they can't get anywhere else?
Good writing.
And interpretive reporting (the "why" and "how.") from seasoned veterans.
The students understood this. They also appreciated the aesthetics of a newspaper. The tactile nature of a newspaper. Vinyl is coming back. There is hope for newspapers.
And while aiming for print, these students have a myriad of creative outlets on the Internet. When I suggested there is no better time to be a journalist, many class members nodded their head in agreement.

Ever since pen went to paper, journalists are renown for complaining. I will complain that nearly 30 years in the business I've seen people fuss over seating charts, positioning of window blinds and refrigerator food.
Sometimes its like working with a troupe of figure skaters.
Now I hear so much complaining about the death of newspapers, I feel as if I have one foot in a museum. The news gathering business evolves. I never thought I'd be blogging. Or posting Converse High Tops as one of my favorites on Facebook.

I told the students that journalism can be like music, in that it is always changing.
Several years ago I was with blues singer Artie "Blues Boy" White during a recording session at Malaco Studios in Jackson, Miss. After the session wound down around midnight, Malaco producer Tommy Couch, Jr. told me, "There's a group of certain people that want to take the blues from a certain time period, put it in a glass bottle and put a cork in it---to where it can't breathe anymore , where it is preserved."
He hoisted an imaginary bottle into the smoky air.
Couch then looked up and said, "Then they can take this glass bottle, put it to the light and turn it at every angle and look at it. And only try to duplicate it. Music is growing and an ever-changing thing. So is the blues."
So are newspapers. And television stations. And radio.

Newspapers are a prism for our lives. And life is change in motion.
All of the students sat behind computer monitors at their desks. As we talked about transitioning from Internet to print, one student pointed out, "After people started getting their news from television the radio didn't die out."
Another spoke of the lost adventures of reading a newspaper. "Now at you can download a book instead of actually going to a bookstore and buying a book," she said. "Maybe newspapers would come to that. Is it necessary to to go to a street corner and pay 75 cents? (Well the Sun-Times is still 50 cents)."
I explained that I get the same kicks out of reading a newspaper that I do in going to a record store. One thing always leads me to another. I'll walk into Dusty Groove in Chicago looking for old soul music and walk out buying Soca from Trinidad. A newspaper web site can be narrow casted. How difficult was it for you to find this blog?
"On the computer you do lose that angle of something you might not find out," she answered. "I don't want to say you lose your imagination, but you lose your sources."

What do you think? More to come down the road........

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Thank you for coming to our class and speaking about your adventures. I appreciate that you spoke from the heart and gave advice to those who asked.

Great article ....


the 24 year old from Mrs. Lamberti class

Thanks for coming to our class and reminding everyone of the discoveries that print newspapers can provide. Even if we prefer paper in the first place, it is nice to be reminded why.

After listening to you talk, I really felt inspired about my future career. Your job requires you to go to Italy and taste the pizza there, and share your feelings on it. It requires you to take road trips and learn more about the world outside of Chicago. Any job, which allows me to write and see the world is something I cannot wait to take part in. Hopefully.
I think most students in journalism feel the same way. We all love to write, and we all love learning more about the world we live in and the media. I definitely believe there are good times for journalism in the future, and I can't wait to be a part of it. So thank you for your inspiration and insight. It was delightful.

Despite all you hear regarding the death of newspapers, I actually think that journalism is simply in a transition period. Yes, more newspapers are likely to close, but the best will most likely survive, if not in the same way (or format, see Chicago's new layout)to which we've become accustomed. More and more people will get their news from the web, and web journalism as whole will become more professional as a result. Journalists will have to become more flexible and innovative as well, which can only benefit the profession.

I don't feel like our newspaper is going anywhere any time soon. I firmly believe that it has staked a place in our American tradition. To say that a newspaper is worthless to the world of journalism is like saying baseball is worthless to the world of sports. Now, some may think I'm going a little overboard, but I will disagree until I'm blue in the face. I love my newspaper like I love my coffee. I also believe that just because news is easily and quickly accessed on the internet does not mean that this format is better. Online, it's so easy to miss breaking news because you have the option of picking and choosing which articles to read. But with a newspaper, usually the most important stories are right there on the front page and pretty hard to miss.

As the internet continues to evolve, I think that newspapers will never really die completely. I personally would hate to read a book from my computer screen. I like holding a book in my hand just like I like to hold a newspaper. I like to bring it with me on the train or the bus or in the waiting room. This cannot be done as easily with a computer. However, I do think that one day people will be able to combine everything - phone, computer, iPod, planner, more so than they can today. This would mean that people could hold a device in their hands and get all the news they want without worrying about smudging ink on their hands or tearing pages. I think at this point the newspaper may be in trouble. But there will always be people out there, like me and my classmates, who get a good feeling from a good old-fashioned newspaper.

First off- thank you for coming to chat with us last week. It was really interesting to learn a bit more about the newspaper biz.

I do agree with the fact that there many people still find that need to sit down, open up a newspaper, and just read it. Although online editions of the paper have dramatically made our lives a lot more functional and fast pasted, there is that magic that a hard copy of newspaper brings to the reader. Things are just easier to locale in a newspaper- maybe it's the structure that is just easier. I don't really think that hard copy papers are on their way out, but readership of hard copy is down. Maybe something the newspapers can do to keep their revenues during this transition to the net is charge a subscription fee for every user.

Well, thank you again for coming! Will be looking for your columns in the Sun Times.

Thank you Renee, stay in touch---Dave

Thank you for taking time out of your busy life to come and remind our class why we still love newspapers. It is thrilling that a pages of paper can lead to such discoveries that would not necessarily be there with the narrow-mindedness of online news.

You are welcome.
Stick with us. We will stick by you.

On the topic concerning a "loss of sources" that comes with the loss of print, I feel this only holds true if the print newspaper can be fully trusted to be objective. Otherwise, this phenomenon may prove to be the opposite. Online newspapers allow a reader to look up multiple versions of the same story, and if that is still not conclusive, one can access the responses of even more in the comments sections just like the one in which I'm writing right now. Maybe it's just because I'm slowly turning into a journalist, or maybe it's because I'm weary of the media, but I think others' opinions after the story has been presented round out the information best. It helps place it in the context of individuals' lives before a way to do so myself is found. Maybe it's not couture, but at least I know it's executed properly. So though I love print dearly and will fight (pay) not to see it go, online media resources have their advantages.

As a student journalist I'm part of the changing media, but it's change I want to learn. No matter what form a story is in, someone has to talk about the bailout, election or a celebrity rehab stint. Hopefully, journalists will always be around, snooping, asking questions and making people nervous.

My parents were in town over the weekend, and my dad asked me to pick him up "a good local paper ... either the Sun-Times or the Tribune." I actually prefer the Sun-Times for its local coverage as well as more reader-friendly layout and design (and I'm not just saying that!), so I stopped in Borders and asked for a copy. The salesperson told me, however, that Borders only carries the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times. Weird, huh?

Then, this morning, I picked up my free copy of the new Chicago Tribune because I want to see the redesign and understand what all the hype's about. I haven't had much of a chance to check it out yet, but upon first glance it looks like it's using a lot of Sun-Times elements. I'm anxious to see how others respond to the changes.

It is always a weary feeling when something so rooted in time and tradition finds itself pressured to morph into something more "with the the times". I also feel weary knowing that the trade I feel so passionate about and in some cases admire is evolving and changing entirely. As I graduate in the upcoming months and finally reach the top of the "college" hill, the last thing I need to know is that my profession will not be there, on the other side of the hill.

Hey Zayil,
Much discussion on the new Tribune today,
What do you think? I read the Trib daily---I think it is Red Eye on Steroids
I got dizzy in that "Live" section.

As a commuter student who takes the train to class everyday, I often observe how many of my fellow commuters are reading newspapers during the ride downtown. Just as books and magazines are alive and well, newspapers remain an essential medium of communication. I would much rather read articles in newspapers than spend more time staring at the computer screen, reading articles online.

Half of the reason why I still love to read a newspaper has to do with the memories I've attached to it. I think if people continue to raise their children with newspapers, our industry will still exist. I miss Sunday mornings eating waffles and reading the comics. I'm not eight anymore, but those happy moments that I grew up with have still evolved with me. It's pure nostalgia. I think all we need now is better writing.


I saw that you were talking about the Live! section. I am not a fan of the exclamation point and I can't believe it found it's way into the Trib.

Thanks!!! (just kidding), Dave

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Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. His collection of Sun-Times travel columns, "Ticket To Everywhere," was published in 2000 by Lake Claremont Press. He was lead writer for "Farm Aid: Song for America" (Rodale Press, 2005) which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Willie Nelson inspired effort.
He won a 1987 Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick O-Type Award for Column Writing. Hoekstra wrote and co-proudced the WTTW-Channel 11 PBS special: "The Staple Singers and the Civil Rights Movement," nominated for a 2001-02 Chicago Emmy for a documentary program/cultural significance.
He lives in Chicago.


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This page contains a single entry by David Hoekstra published on September 25, 2008 4:53 PM.

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