Three and a half years ago, I left self-employment to attend graduate school. The one thing I wanted at the end was a job — a regular paycheck. Now, I’m giving up a regular paycheck to return to my business, Niles Media. And it feels great.
This fall, I am getting the chance to peer in at journalism from outside the newsroom walls. There is no media theory or philosophy of journalism in a public policy class. No distinction between mass media and independent community media. Heck, there’s no distinction between “media” and “journalism.”
Here, framing is about how to structure a policy issue to attract the attention of reporters. Reporters are myopic servants of single-issue beats who simplify messages to fit the format of their media. Media are no more than businesses that lead with what bleeds and profit from conflict. And conflict is the enemy of compromise. Yet compromise is what solutions are made of.
In other words, the media, while essential, are also an intractable obstacle to constructive policy solutions.
I think one criticism, in particular, misses its mark at the same time it points to the greatest potential for journalism’s future.
It’s hard to prepare for the artful dodge of politicians, I suppose, with anything other than practice. I’m hopeful that the experience of being a panelist at the Missouri Press Association’s gubernatorial forum last Friday, combined with my current studies of public policy, will prepare me to craft questions that require more specific responses than I got last week.
I think the format presented part of the challenge to specificity. At first, I confess, I was relieved that there would be no time for follow-up questions. That took a bit of pressure off, as I was nervous to “perform” so publicly. By the end, I decided I would have preferred the risk.
Briefly, the idea is that equilibrium, or status quo, dominates. Not much changes from year to year (or generation to generation), but this relative calm is always interrupted by a flurry of activity in which rapid change occurs. Here’s how I think it applies to reporting:
I’ve just left the Investigative Reporters and Editors annual conference in Boston, and not only was the entire affair inspiring, informative, and fun. I got to stay on a tall ship in Boston Harbor, instead of a regular hotel. It might sound a tad sexier than it was.
Boot camp is not for sissies.
This I know, so I am cautioning myself to not get cocky or lulled into a false sense of confidence based on the slow starting pace of this week’s computer-assisted reporting boot camp.
This is the second “boot camp” of sorts I have signed up for in my life, the first being a ten-day silent Vipassana meditation back in 1999. At the time, I not-so-fondly called it Boot Camp for Buddhists.