January 18, 2004

Catching Up, Getting Religion

There's nothing like a long time in Mexico to make you forget about quality journalism or, given the state of local newspapers in Oaxaca, journalism at all. I missed much, but there will be more. Here's some of what went by while I was gone:

 Jay Rosen launched The Revealer, a review of religion and the press, and as part of his introductory essay asks this: "But isn't journalism, that secular enterprise, itself a kind of religion?"

I add, blushingly, that point four of Rosen's eight-point answer is about me: "Tim Porter got religion again about journalism. In my reading of his story, this came only after a loss of faith." (The back story on Rosen's comment is available at my post Eliminating the Bimbo Factor.)

First, thanks Jay. My mother is happy to hear I've found some sort of religion again.

Second, the intersection of religion and journalism is well-traveled (but not necessarily well explored). More than once, journalists I have interviewed about their calling have made references to the higher nature of their vocation. Here, for example, are some outtakes from a story I did about the paltry salaries paid in the newspaper profession. Speaking are Orville Schell, dean of the UC-Berkeley journalism school, and Scott Bosley, executive director of ASNE:

"Journalism "selects those who cannot but be writers and journalists," Schell says. "It means you get a level of commitment and dedication that is quite unusual in many other professions. But you can only abuse people so much. They have families, children and student loans and lives to lead. We are not monks."

Schell calls journalists "men and women of the cloth" who are doing the "Lord's work," and Scott Bosley, executive director of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, argues that even though journalists want to make a "societal contribution they didn't do this to enter the priesthood."

With a final allusion to journalism's loftier aspirations, Schell adds, "I hope they can benefit a bit by the dot-com crash, which hopefully will free up some good young acolytes who might otherwise have their heads turned by the content mongers."

 Doug Clifton, editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, started a blog, saying he "decided to tip toe into these electronic waters because I recognize that to ignore change is to be consumed by it." Smart.

 The Columbia Journalism Review launched The Campaign Desk, a blog covering the coverage of the presidential campaign. So far it seems to be a link pointer. (Ed Cone called it "clueless old media snobbery.")

 Media Audit reported that "percentage of adults who spend at least an hour a day on the Internet is significantly greater than the percentage of adults who spend an hour a day with the print edition of a daily newspaper."

 La Opinion of Los Angeles and El Diario/La Prensa of New York announced plans to form a new company, Impremedia, that will publish a national chain of Latino-targeted newspapers. La Opinion had to do something to counter the Tribune Company's aggressive pursuit of the Latino market, plans that ironically did not include the 50 percent ownership it had in La Opinion.

 Quotable: Some quotes are worth printing (but they are worth reprinting). Here's S.F. Chronicle editor Phil Bronstein, tongue Super-Glued to his cheek, being taken seriously by Editor & Publisher's Joe Strupp in a story about actor Sean Penn penning (sorry) a first-person report for the paper from Baghdad: "We are always glad to have contributions from local residents," said Bronstein, "if they are interesting and relevant."

(Thanks to Jeff Jarvis, LA Observed and, of course, Romenesko for the tips.)

Posted by Tim Porter at January 18, 2004 06:09 PM

Benchley's Law: Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.

Great to read your observations again...

Posted by: Jozef on January 20, 2004 12:32 AM
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