Wednesday, February 10, 2010

More to 'the media' than meets the eye

I slept until almost noon today. I can’t seem to shake my “hangover” lingering from the weekend.

I got up with the kids at 7 a.m., and as soon as they were out the door, I crawled back into bed and didn’t move until 11:30 a.m.

It feels like I’ve got a little fire going on in my belly. Plus, I’ve got that permanent watery, metally taste in my mouth that shows up every time I move a muscle. Bleck!

On a more positive note, I had a fabulous trip to Norman yesterday.

I was a guest of Professor John Schmeltzer at the Gaylord College of Journalism. John worked as a reporter and editor for the Chicago Tribune for 35 years and began teaching at OU last August.

I sat through two classes, met a couple other professors and students and visited with the Dean of Graduate Studies Dr. David Craig, who encouraged me to apply for an assistantship.

What is the benefit of obtaining an assistantship? My tuition would be paid in full. I could go for that! Guess we’ll see what happens.

One of the classes I attended was a social media class. Yes, they have a class on Facebook and Twitter. I got to join the conversation and put in my two cents worth.

I also attended a new class and witnessed history in the making. The class was designed for students to launch a new Web-based magazine which will cover lifestyle features across the state. The students’ biggest hang-up right now is finding a title for the publication. Some favorites were Flatland, Routes, Life’s OK, Oklahoma Life, Strictly OK, Zephyr, Zooner and several others. At the end of class, everyone voted for their top three picks. I even got to vote!

So, if the Web-zine happens to be named Life’s OK, Zooner or Routes, I will have taken part in OU history. That was exciting! The first issue of the “zine” will feature Work Progress Administration projects built in the 1930s throughout Oklahoma. OU’s museum has the largest collection of WPA art in the world.

I am familiar with the WPA program, developed during the Depression to give work to unemployed Oklahomans (and millions throughout the country), but I had no idea the unemployment rate in Oklahoma during that time was nearly 50 percent.

When I heard that, I had to throw up a little “thank you, Lord!” for our current economic times. As hard as things are right now, we are nowhere near experiencing what our grandparents and parents endured.

Also attending the Web-zine class was Ponca City’s Mike Boettcher. You may have seen him on a CNN broadcast or some other high profile journalism venture.

Mike spoke Saturday morning at the OPA convention about his time on the front lines in Afghanistan. I wiped tears from my eyes after his presentation.

He had been covering the war as a CNN correspondent, but when CNN and other news organizations pulled back on the war coverage, due to hostile environments and breaking news stories in our own country, Mike decided to take matters into his own hands.

He wanted the war publicized. He wanted the soldiers fighting for us to get the recognition they deserved.

He went out on his own, with help from The Oklahoman and ABC. He described a trip he took in November 2009 to Afghanistan. He joined up with Marine forces serving on the front lines of the war in desolate country where anyone with a camera is a prime target.

He said reporters often are shot at first because when a reporter is killed, national headlines follow. Sadly, when a soldier is killed, few people know about it.

In one day, the unit he was covering was ambushed 11 times. On one occasion, two Marines (one from Cashion, Okla.) saved his life in a most heroic fashion. He was stranded during an ambush, and the two soldiers risked their lives to drag him to safety. He learned recently that those two soldiers were killed in action a short time later.

He spoke about other tragedies, bombings and unbelievable incidents that are not being reported on our local news stations. I sat in a stupor, lump in my throat, thinking “this is what journalism is all about. I wish more people would understand this.”

His story made my time at city council meetings seem a little silly. Although all reporters have their places and their purposes to protect and inform their communities, it is reporters with true guts that keep the journalism tradition alive.

I hate, and I repeat – I HATE – the uninformed critics who blame everything on “the media.” Next time you blame “the media” for blowing out of proportion a sex scandal in Hollywood, the worst dressed at the Grammys or anything related to glitter or alcohol, please consider Mike Boettcher and others like him who literally risk their lives just because they want people to know what is going on.

“The media” consists of a wide array of individuals who all work to appease certain audiences. All reporters should have the same goal regardless of their audiences. That goal should be truth and accuracy, and each story should have a purpose.

Celebrity news has its place. If it didn’t, celebrity news would not attract such a high percentage of readership, but please, please, please don’t lump the paparazzi in Los Angeles into the same category as a war correspondent in Iraq.

You may not like “the media,” but if it weren’t for the media, you would never know a thing about the world around you. Some people might say, “That’s fine with me,” but in all actuality that would not be fine.

Yesterday, as I sat listening to Mike casually talking to his students about what to name a Web site that will feature entertainment and historical pieces, as well as some “fluff” (not that I don’t love me some fluff), I wondered if that roomful of 12 had any inclination of how lucky they are to have him in their midst.

I hope they all learn from his example. More than likely, none in the class will wind up in the trenches in Iraq or Afghanistan (or any war, for that matter), but I hope they appreciate the fact that some reporter will. In most cases, that reporter will go unnamed, unrecognized and unappreciated. He or she also will be shunned for being involved with “the media.” That’s a shame.


Matthew 14:1-21
Acts 20:1-12
Psalm 33
Exodus 27-29

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