“and that’s the way it is…”
Yesterday and today we have been teaching a VJ course at CUNY’s new Graduate School of Journalism.
On Wednesday last week, I gave a lecture at the journalism school at the State University of NY at Stony Brook.
In both cases, of course, we talked about “the Revolution” in technology, the web and the ability of anyone to ‘be a journalist’.
This caused deep distress among the journalism students. Maybe because the craft they are paying to learn is now no longer so ‘special’?
Many of them, schooled to a large degree in the ‘conventional’ view of Journalism (despite both Judy Watson and Barbara Selvin opening the door to us), expressed deep angst over the idea of ‘anyone’ being able to get a camera and make ‘anything’!
“Where is the control?” they asked, aghast!
They all wanted to know where the ‘editorial’ controls are.
“Who will guarantee that this is true?”
(I read something similar to this on Safran’s Lostremote yesterday).
This anxiety is funny, coming from an institution that prides itself (at least says so), in a “free press”.
Well, guess what? We have not had a ‘free press’ until now.
CBS v. ABC; Matt Lauer v. Dianne Sawyer is NOT a free press.
Up until now, we have had a very Soviet Press. It was controlled. Not by the state, but rather by a handful of paternalistic media corporations who we ‘trusted’ to make sure everything was ‘OK’.
Well, of course, for more than 40 years, it has very much not been OK.
The disaster in Iraq, (which I lay to a great extent at the feet of a passive media), is the result.
The very idea of turning the most powerful informational medium in the world over to Katie Couric, Brian Williams and a handful of network execs’ to entrust to them the content of our information and public discourse on a regular basis carries the seeds of cultural suicide.
Now, for the first time, we are at the precipice of a real Free Press.
And you know what? Free presses are messy.
They are supposed to be.
We’re going to have a thousand voices saying a thousand different things.
Bring on the storm.
We need it.
We have lived in the Soviet News World for far too long.
And like the former residents of the Soviet Bloc, we have gotten used to being spoon fed. We cannot imagine a world without ‘controls’.
That 22 year old students feel this way is all the more tragic.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, economic advisers such as Jeffrey Sachs suggested a ‘cold turkey’ approach to building a Capitalist economy.
The former Soviet citizens were aghast (much as the students at CUNY and SUNY): “I don’t understand”, they say. “Without People’s Collective Farm Number 87, where will the food come from?”
Without Katie, how will we know what is true.
We will know.