August 01, 2004

Orville Schell Gives Good Quote

The New York Times wrote yet another story reprising the tiring blogging vs. journalism debate in the wake of the Democratic convention. I had barely gotten to the jump and was about to bail on the following 20 inches when I found this gem of a quote from Orville Schell, dean of the UC-Berkeley's graduate school of journalism:

"Obviously, the official media don't quite know how to deport themselves in relation to the blogs. If they adopt them, it's like having a spastic arm - they can't control it. But if they don't adopt it, they're missing out on the newest, edgiest trend in the media."

Spastic arm! What a great image and what a typical Orville Schell quote - colorful, metaphoric, on point and just jarring enough to stand out from the usual blather of official quotes.

I interviewed Schell a couple of years ago about low-paying jobs for journalists and he delivered one quotable punch line after another, so many that I kept adding them into the story like exotic spices that I just had to use only to have the editor later declare the piece overly seasoned and remove most of them.

Schell wove a theme of journalistic piety with these kind of statements:

"It's very warping for undergraduates to go to journalism school and then become men and women of the cloth. They miss a whole range of study. They should be out reading good novels as undergraduates."

And: "You can only abuse people so much. They have families, children and student loans and lives to lead. We are not monks."

After seeing Schell quoted in today's Times, I ran a quick Lexis/Nexis search looking for more good quote from him. Here's a sample:

> "Getting coverage from embedded reporters is like looking into a microscope," The Hotline March 17, 2004.

> "There is a giant bald place in the media, and there are not a lot of people who are being fed" good information, San Francisco Chronicle, May 5, 2004.

> "But the question is: 'Can editors really be captains of a ship and know everything that's going on in the minds of their sailors?' ," Los Angeles Times April 23, 2004.

> CBS "has gone from one humiliating event to another in recent years. But it's particularly demeaning to compromise your integrity so fundamentally over something as worthless as Michael Jackson. I suppose you could make a case for getting a story that laid bare the terrorist networks operating inside Iraq by paying for it. But to lose your reputation, as CBS now has done, to get more Michael Jackson?", Los Angeles Times December 31, 2003.

> "One would have to say there's getting to be something of a tradition of trouble caused by young journalists with unbridled ambitions and hyperventilated notions of careerism," as quoted in the Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio, May 21, 2003.

Finally, here's Schell himself, writing:

> "We have instead a new, almost gravityless, world of conflict in which the American military can kill journalists without causing great alarm and "the enemy" can blow up U.N. aid missions and other "soft" civilian targets without remorse. All that journalists have to steady them in this bad dream is grit and a stubborn refusal to serve any of the contending masters," New York Times essay, September 7, 2003.
Posted by Tim Porter at August 1, 2004 06:57 PM