21st century journalism different yet much the same

Photo by Michael Swickard, 1969
© 2015 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.  "I think journalism gets measured by the quality of information it presents, not the drama or the pyrotechnics associated with us." Bob Woodward
             Because of changes in technology, journalism today is different than when I first started, but it is also much the same. The stories are still the stories regardless if ink is used or a blog. The quality of information is most important. The window dressing may impress some people, but the story better have a good lead.
            I got into journalism via photo-journalism. My father taught at the Air Force School of Photography. We had a darkroom at home. He taught me the school's curriculum so I was a good photographer by high school.
            This last weekend I was on a panel talking about journalism and the student newspaper at New Mexico State University. It no longer is acting like a traditional print newspaper of the past.
            A student newspaper has two broad functions: first, as a learning lab for students who want to become journalists and secondly as a watchdog on the student government and college management. Both functions are critical and it's obvious every public university needs an independent news source.
            On the panel were three currently working journalists who fairly recently worked on the student newspaper in the past and myself who had been a photographer, cartoonist and columnist over the years. How I got into journalism: at a high school basketball game I took a picture my father thought was good. I had several for the student newspaper. He picked this one out and said, "Take that down to the local paper, they may buy it."
            I left it at the counter of the newspaper with my name. A day later my photograph was on the sports page with the caption, "Photo by Sports Editor Stan Green." I went down to straighten this out. At the front counter I explained the picture was mine. The secretary said, "You must be mistaken."
            There was a clinching argument: I pointed out to the secretary that to one side in the picture was Stan Green standing with his camera as the player went by. Mr. Green came out of his office laughing. "I saw myself in that picture and wondered who in blazes shot it?" I was invited to be a photo stringer.
            In 1967 the Alamogordo Daily News was typeset via hot type in the way newspapers had been set for more than a hundred years. Over the last forty years journalism and media have changed entirely.
            There are fewer daily and weekly newspapers. But there are more news organizations with all of the connections via the Internet. In 1968 when I started as a photographer at the NMSU student newspaper both the photography and newspaper printing were essentially much as they had been for many decades. More important, it was likely that the technology of journalism was going to remain the same when I graduated and got a job.
            What I realized sitting with those working journalists is that 21st century journalism is different yet much is the same as I experienced at college. Ultimately however the information gets to consumers there is still the requirement words make sense. Sentences must adhere to principles of grammar and spelling.
            And the purpose of journalism is still as it was when Bob Woodward worked as a team with Carl Bernstein at the Washington Post to report on the Watergate scandal. The downfall of President Richard Nixon was achieved by relentless investigative reporting.
            It was what started many careers in journalism over the decades with the realization that a free press was all that kept us Americans free. That is more so now than then.
            Journalism at universities will continue. I wish students going into the field of journalism were better educated in statistics, economics and history along with all of the other things they must learn about the new Internet opportunities.
            And like me through decades of journalism the next generation students must have a thick hide as the powerful elites try to squash them. We consumers need the next generation of journalists to be as strong as Bob Woodward if we are to remain free.



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