When I was teaching Write to Publish at Sheridan College circa 2004, I was still actively working as a journalist, and was now writing Don’t Believe It! and then OutFoxed within the same year.
I also contributed giving workshops to other professors. The second one was how to incorporate “pop assignments” (a form of a pop quiz, but I argued out-of-the-blue assignments that had to be done right then and there were essential), but the first was talking about a novel use for blogs — using them as a teaching aid in classrooms:
It sounds ridiculous now as it’s common practice: in 2004, it wasn’t. I was using a blog for my courses at Sheridan, and had been surprised it wasn’t common practice back then.
It was an interesting experience. Instructors were required to take a course in teaching fundamentals:
Although I was teaching how to get published in fiction and nonfiction, we were required to have a videotaped lecture in front of our colleagues, and instead of what I normally taught, I decided to do a lecture on information verification for journalists — an idea I was trying to get through with absolutely no luck (when I find the video of that lecture, I will post it on the site).
I hand my handouts, and these were it:
Those articles were all proven to be fake news.
And this was all something I had been working on for years as a journalist. I had tried to get a textbook for j-school students published for years. Here is a blind reviewer (not so blind that I could not figure out the identity) and the endorsement for the book…way back in 1999:
Yes, a ringing endorsement, but it wasn’t universal: I had others knock down my experience, even though I was writing about the journalism industry for various trades such as Presstime, and one that thought I should team-up with a “name” journalist (which would have been a disaster). This was not the publisher that would finally publish Don’t Believe It! — that would be the Disinformation Company in 2005.
But in 2004, I was actively researching how those lies became news in the first place.
When I was the first female recipient of the Arch Award in 2004 as well, I was discussing what one of my long-term goals would be — in the final paragraph:
I had researched as sorts of scams and lies over the years, however, not just in journalism:
I have had many people over the years be dumbfounded when they find out my credentials and goal, and wonder why I have been as stymied as badly as I have been. The answer is complex as it is simple: bottom line, I am Writing While Female in a patently sexist profession that is obsessed with Great Men who they see as the only ones who can be visionaries. It is also a profession rife with egotism, meaning anything resembling criticism is seen as an unforgivable sin.
It is for those two main reasons why the profession destroyed itself (not the only ones, however). No one helped them in that regard. People need to be informed, but that is not what is happening: they are being agitated as they are being told how to react. There is a big difference.
But because journalism has been the only model of informing a general public, we assume that is the only way to do it.
And it’s not.
We need to get away from the Patriarchal mode because our world is now global. Before, a local paper had the monopoly of the community’s attention; now, not only can others read what that local paper is writing, but citizens can read any outlet they wish from anywhere in the world.
We have gotten away from the model of the One.
Journalism still is entrenched in it because its core has been rotted with that stifling assumption.
And that rot has gone up all the way to the top.
If we wish to have better form of mass communications, we have to consider something other than journalism. Social media doesn’t have the empiricism or the expertise to inform in a way citizens need to navigate around. We are living in an information void where we lack facts, but are overstocked with opinion.
Journalists never experimented in their labs — the real world.
Well, almost of them.
I was a psychology student in the mid-1990s when it hit me: why not be both the experimenter and the test subject and take the lab out of the ivory tower, and into the real world.
I even had a name for this brand of experimental journalism: Method Research.
Actors use a method to get into roles — they immerse themselves; so why not an experimenter?
Why not a journalist?
I set up experiments. I had results. I had hypotheses to test. I was a journalist looking at the problems of journalism — and then finding alternative ways of doing journalism.
Experimenters in laboratories do not have the same problems: breaking news happens, you hit peculiar roadblocks, and you have to wing it as you go along. Labs are not usually war zones to researchers, but they could be for journalists.
It could be done — but not through journalism. When you have celebrity gossip and “gee, it’s really cold out” leading newscasts, that is not the place to do something of value.
Journalism is an archaic concept that no longer fits in our diverse and changing world. It is anarchy in a void and journalism collapsed because it didn’t actually understand the environment or know the difference between reality and a narrative.
We need new models. We need Matriarchal theories, as Patriarchal has reached its limits. We need explorers, and people who have both the intelligence and humility to know they are not experts in an unknown field.
New paths cannot be build any other way. Journalism worked when they could hold all the cards, but they aren’t playing with a full deck these days.
But the world cannot sit and wait for them — and has marched on without them.
But they still need to be informed — but in a better way than they were before.