by Glenn C. Koenig, webmaster at Town Wide Mall.
COURSE - I’m starting these posts about Citizen Journalism right here in the news feed because I want everyone to have easy access to them.
Before we get started with the first installment, here are some specifics:
• this “course” is simply a series of articles for your to read, or videos to watch
• I may convene some in-person meetings because some people learn better that way and some things are better done, or are more fun to do, in a group
• this information is free to anyone, of any age.
• I offer no assignments, no grades, no exams, no papers to write, no time limits
• I’m not taking attendance (!)
• I invite you to learn at your own pace
• I have a bachelor’s degree only. There were no majors at Goddard College when I graduated, in 1975, so my B.A. is not “in” anything. I’m essentially a “generalist,” which is exactly how I like it.
• I have no institution nor any accreditation or certification, so I cannot award any credits or degrees.
• the goal is that you learn what you want and do with it whatever you please
• my other goal is that at least a few people are interested enough in journalism as a practice, that they start working on stories here in Maynard. Perhaps they contribute them here, to my Town Wide Mall web site, or post them on their own web sites, on paper, or however they think is appropriate. I'm happy either way.
• I happen to think most education should work this way, but that’s a topic for another time.
OK, so let’s get started:
Part 1: How did we get here?
When something disappointing happens, it’s tempting to point the finger of blame at some particular person or company. For example, when the Beacon Villager stopped printing a newspaper for Maynard, last May, who was to blame? Was it the Gannett Company (publisher of USA Today) who owned it at the time? Or was it Gatehouse Media, who owned it before that?
As it turns out, blaming either of them won’t do us much good. The problem began long before they were in charge. Just this weekend, I happened upon an article "The Decline of Big Media ..." that tells the amazing story of what really happened:
I read this entire story and I was fascinated. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in journalism today. Yes, it was published almost 10 years ago, but I think it is still highly relevant today. By the way if you don't know who William Paley or Henry Luce were (they are mentioned in the story), you can just look them up (or use the handy links I've provided here – just click on their names, in this sentence).
When I was in school, I thought I hated history. Later on after school was over, I realized that I actually love history! The problem was that history taught in school was largely about war and politics and not nearly enough about innovation, technology, culture, art, and love (love in the broader spiritual sense, not just romantic love) and the amazing interactions between all of those things.
I also didn’t really care for literature. I don’t remember names very well, so I got very lost when trying to read novels. Which character was whom, again? Ugh. Early on, I discovered that I could learn all the same things about the humanities (ethics, culture, human relations, psychology, etc.) from non-fiction that I could have learned from fiction, so I walked away from fiction and really never looked back. After all, literature is art and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as they say. In my eye, most fiction was just not that beautiful, so I never much cared for it.
It turns out that I’m more of a visual person than just a reader. Although I was born in the 1950s, I'm really a child of the electronic media age.
I found the story at the link I referenced above easily as intriguing as any fictional story. I know it's long, but if you read the whole thing, I'd be interested to know what you think.
Oh, and one more thing. When I said, "... anyone, of any age," I meant it. You never know what a child is capable of. I know someone who could read pretty much anything at age 2 without ever spending time in a classroom. There is a wide variety of learning styles and capabilities out there. So if your 9 year old wants to try reading this stuff, or you want to read it to them, give it a try. You might be surprised. If a 9 year old submits a story to me and I think it is well enough written and of interest to readers, I'll run it here on Town Wide Mall. I promise.