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?
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 Amazon.com 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........