Turtle journalism versus April O’Neil

It’s funny how much a dream can change.

When we’re sleeping and we have one of those really detailed, realistic to the point of being creepy, dreams that linger after we open our eyes… they begin to lose their shape as soon as we move from our bed. At least they do for me.

As soon as I hit the bathroom, I lose a significant portion of the dream as if I’ve flushed it out as well. Breakfast comes and I try to recall the details as I eat -coffee helps me wake up the rest of the way and start feeling productive but it certainly doesn’t stop the gradual erosion of that memory I’ve been clinging to since I put my feet on the floor.

My career dreams have been acting just the same way since I started college.

I wanted to be a writer, so my first real commitment was to English. I loved every moment of being an English major, and in a perfect world I would probably still be one. There just weren’t enough positive examples around me of successful English majors. I was a single mom at the time that I transferred so I could major in Journalism. Public relations really interested me as a career option -it would allow me to use my writing ability and my naturally social nature, but also to earn enough money to support myself and my son.

After the transfer and a few semesters studying public relations and integrated marketing communications… I felt like I had become a storm trooper for the evil empire. We talked about true journalism in these classes only as the thing we wanted to emulate with our product messages, and it struck a sour note in me. Integrity had always been something I took a lot of pride in, not just because I wanted people to trust my words -but because I wanted to know that I was making an honest difference in the world. The idea of living comfortably while diverting the country’s attention from real relevant news that could change public opinions and affect lives began to lose it’s gleam.

I wanted to be the one shouting out truth to power. The reporter heroine who may come close to danger at some point in her life -or not- but who always spoke the truth, dug out the nasty secrets of the villain and occasionally befriended a few super heroes worthy of respect. I wanted to be April O’Neil or Lois Lane. Or maybe Peter Parker if he’d been a girl.

Over the last ten years I have slowly come to realize that I’ve always wanted this for myself -I just hadn’t been able to realize it because life was so challenging and confusing that I focused all my energy on making it from one day to the next, one meager paycheck to the next. Finally, when I made my triumphant comeback last semester (okay, not so triumphant but I think I have a right to celebrate a little) I realized all this and more.

via http://gawker.com/5846961/live-from-the-occupy-wall-street-march

The Occupy movement really hit home with me last year, as I watched tens of thousands of people in this country and hundreds of thousands across the globe pour into the streets over the course of October and September. The Tumblr for the 99 percent (still growing!) brought me to tears, as I realized that people all over the country were suffering and really had no idea what to do about it. They were all desperate enough to write out their hopelessness on cards for the webcam, camp in a small park in NYC outside the palaces of today’s profiteers and some were even willing to hang bandanas over their faces and risk physical harm just to get some attention.

There was another group that emerged from this scenario, however. Citizen journalists, folks with cell phone cameras and bloggers that have tried to relay their experiences of these events to the masses of people who are only getting the narrow view provided to them by mainstream media organizations. News sources that have, by necessity, been driven by profit for the last 20 years or more.

These people don’t always get paid -in fact I’d wager a guess that they seldom do.

They believe in something and they want the world to see through their eyes and know that what they are taking part in is just as real if not more so than the political sports style coverage we’re all being inundated with from every major network. Newspeak has become very real in this day and age, it seems to them, and the best way to alleviate that subtle deception is to speak the truth as our predecessors knew it. To deliver firsthand accounts of what’s going on in the world and hope that someone out there takes it to heart.

While I have great respect for these citizen journalists, most of whom are motivated by integrity and only some of whom have any training in actual Journalism, I cannot be one of them.

I’m a parent and a wife. I’m part of a team -Team Diamond. There’s no way I can give away the skills I’ve developed, and even if I could, I am not physically in a place where that kind of change is happening.

Through all of my life’s craziness I have come to two very important realizations.

First, I am a progressive -both parties are corrupt, and money talks more often than the true spirit of American ingenuity these days. I won’t claim a party affiliation, but I suppose I should call myself a liberal. I really detest assumptions, though, and that is basically what all these political buzzwords were created for -to give others an easier time assuming they know what I believe in. I believe in the American people, in fair pay for an honest day’s work and that no small group of powerful men should hold the strings of opportunity behind their backs.

Second, I love social networking and I’m GOOD at it. Once upon a time people looked at Facebook as a thing that would go away. When I started mine on January 27th, 2005, it was all text and only for college students to network for the purposes of (ahem) finding better employment. There are still some today who make quips about how it won’t last forever or about how it’s a waste of time.

In the spirit of humble disagreement and without the power to truly know the future, I can only say that I hope to prove them wrong. As I move on to graduate school to study Journalism and social media, I am forced to acknowledge that the old school investigative reporter -brave, intelligent, curious, honest and unwilling to give up just because a few doors get slammed in their faces- is nearly extinct.

I still have hope for the future of true journalism -and I still hope to be a part of it someday. I’m just finally starting to understand how very different it will be. Evolution is more than just a theory. It’s the only way to survive.

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