Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Times, They Are a-Changin!

Why did I change my mind about going into journalism?

As my wife pointed out when I told her I was minoring in Journalism, I at one point swore off it forever because of a bad experience at the U of M.

But then again, almost the whole academic experience at the U of M was a bad experience, mostly for the people keeping track of my grades as they slipped and hit rock bottom.

Okay, so, that's the first time I've truly admitted on the blog, I think, that I once flunked out of college. And now, I have been on the Dean's List three times at Meramec. This last semester, I took five classes. I got three A's, a Pass (because it was a P/F class, but it was playwriting and I know it would have been an A) and a B. Okay, so I got the B in Contemporary Moral Issues, which makes me wonder just what kind of morals I have...good enough, but not as good as they could be. Which probably makes me a pretty good candidate for being a journalist.

The thing is, I had no experience with media when I went to the U of M. Not the kind I needed, anyway. Media was something I consumed, not something I participated in. It wasn't something I had any inkling of learning about. But that's changed quite a bit, really, because media are important to almost every job out there now. It's something I want to understand better.

But, the reporting? Well, again, I had very little understanding back then. I thought you could pretty much write whatever the hell you wanted as long as it reported the facts. Bo-ring! Having been listening to NPR religiously for almost two and a half years now, I know enough to know that I don't know enough. You know? Basically, what listening to NPR has taught me is that news is news, and entertainment is entertainment, but sometimes entertainment can be news and news can be entertainment. Imagine that I learned that from a public institution that has such a dry reputation in the outside world. Aside from those of us who listen (and the numbers are growing, I believe), people see NPR as a droning 24 hour news radio program somewhere between their favorite rap station and the oldies. This could not be further from the truth.

Okay, but that doesn't mean I want to get into radio. But they have news researchers, writers, you know, people who are behind the scenes. There's also print journalism, which I think is more my style. I could write for a paper. Ideally, I would love to graduate, get a job at a paper like The RFT in St. Louis or City Pages in the Twin Cities for a few years, write on the side, get my MFA in writing from either UMSL or (gasp!) U of M, get a teaching job at a Community College teaching creative writing and/or mass communication and just sit back and enjoy life. But I'm sure that there are some crucial steps I am leaving out in my grandiose plans.

The real reason I changed my mind on going into journalism is that minds change. Journalism isn't just about reporting the news, it's about finding the news, finding the people that make it, or that it happens to, or discovering what hasn't been news and then making it news. It's about people, and ultimately, that's what any kind of writing is about (with the exception of technical manuals and miscellaneous other types of writing, so don't try and do the "Dude, you WRONG!" crap on me). And I am interested in people, in finding their stories, in writing new stories...basically, I discovered that the only difference between a story in a newspaper and a story in a collection of short fiction is that one probably happened in the real world close to the way it was told, and the other happened in the mind of the writer exactly as it's written down.

As I said yesterday, I will not be calling for suggestions today. But fear not! The moment I get home tomorrow, I will post again and solicit your help. Well, certainly, the moment I ascertain the availability of internet SBC is doing rolling maintenance and I finally gave up at home and headed over to the 'rents so I could say hello and use their internet. Hello, 'rents! Hello, 'rents' cats!

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