Thursday, May 21

Observation and action

Sunday before last I graduated from Gonzaga University with a bachelor of arts in journalism. I listed it as my intended major on the application materials over four years ago and not once considered dropping it throughout my studies. It may come as some surprise then that I now have no real interest in pursuing a career as a reporter for a newspaper or magazine. Please do not misunderstand me. I do not regret my course of studies in the least. Through my journalism classes I met some great people. The classes themselves forced me to write a lot and to meet a lot of different people, both very good things, but my experiences in the past two years have pushed me in away from it as a career. A hobby which pays whenever a freelance piece is sold, perhaps, but not a profession.

The primary culprit in this change of perspective is my work at the House of Charity. As minor as my duties of handing out mail and checking in gear there are, they still opened my eyes to a severe contrast, that between the observer and actor. The traditional journalist is a pure observer. They practice strict independence and objectivity, presenting the most accurate and precise facts of the event. When opinion does appear, it is from the mouths of others. The journalist takes no action of their own. Their work is done once they publish the best possible information available at the time. How this information is used is of little import to them.

On the opposite end of this line are the actors, politicians and businessmen and their cohorts. They are the ones who act to change the world and the lives of others. They make something new and different. They have particular interests, and they act to make them real. To simplify, the observer, the journalist, presents reality; the actor alters reality.

In truth, I have been aware of this tension longer than I have worked at the House of Charity, but I was okay with merely being an observer then. Yes, I did have my own interests and visions of how the world could and should be. My hope was that my reporting would present how we currently fail and what ideals we should strive for. The muckrakers did this at the turn of the century in America. It was enough for me to hope that my articles would inspire action in others.

But working at the House of Charity changed that. Observation and reporting can only go so far. There still needs to be an energy and will among the actors to work upon that, and I would rather be a part of that direct involvement instead of the oblique work of journalists. I have not abandoned journalism completely. I still believe it is necessary and can do good work, but I just no longer believe that it is for me.

Well, all that and the fact that the journalism industry is a complete mess right now has turned me off from the profession. Best of luck to anyone trying to find a secure writing position with a daily newspaper. They're going to need it.

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