Friday, January 6, 2017

Fake journalism, fake education

I've gone in multiple directions during my career. Maybe it's because I'm a lifelong learner and I like to chase new ideas. Nonetheless, first and foremost I am a journalist.

I was trained well buy my professors, first at the Marathon County 2-year campus and then in my major at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire. One of my news writing instructors was Gerald Conner. There are great memories of the times Professor Conner sent me to the local courthouse to report on cases. I struggled, but believed I had a place and purpose through reporting the facts and writing in clear and concise form.

He taught me honor is news writing. About how one's opinion is off limits in your work. That you did your best when you presented all sides of a story, so that the reader could make their own decision. When I got my first job out of college, I reported on motorcycle racing events for Cycle News East in Tucker, GA. Each time there was a shadow of opinion in my news writing, editor Jack Mangus would delete it and admonish my actions. Lesson learned.

Now, one portion of news is tainted with personal opinion. Reporters frame one position, while alternative points of view are mocked and ridiculed. I reached out to professor Conner to discuss. It may be 40 years later, but he still had words of wisdom that will guide me into the future as I help my students learn and grow.

Here's what he told me:

Be true to yourself.

Be yourself, don't take yourself too seriously.

Respect your students, and hold your subject matter in the highest regard.

Maintain integrity always.

When you're doing all of that, don't fret, you're having a much more positive effect than you realize.

I'd suggest that is a good lesson for us all. To do our best, and set an example through what we believe is good character. And as a university instructor, to remember my opinion doesn't really matter, while all perspectives on an issue do matter.

I look forward to the start of a new semester. I will focus on all points of view, to assure my bias is not introduced in the discussion. It's more important than ever. Our students must build their own opinions, which in turn will best serve society.

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