I celebrated my birthday February 27th. By all birthday standards, it sucked. I suppose there’s a better euphemism for it; abysmally pathetic comes fairly close.
It wasn’t just abysmally pathetic because I was frantically trying to finish my grading before report cards were due. It wasn’t because I discovered that my yearbook staff forgot six pages (“forgot,” as in never created the pages to begin with; “forgot,” as in never decided a topic, wrote a story, or assigned a photograph).
No siree, Missy, it was none of that. It wasn’t even that I recently discovered, at 52, I have now taught long enough to begin teaching the children of former students.
While all of those things certainly contributed to my birthday malaise, the real reason for this birthday angst was the death of the Rocky Mountain News. After 149 years and 311 days, the Rocky Mountain News published its final edition on February 27.
Now, there are some who will find some glee in its demise, but for those of us journalism types who love freedom and consider ourselves the guardian angels of the Fourth Estate and First Amendment, well, the loss of another newspaper in this country is rather chilling.
In his last column, Rocky Mountain News staffer, Mike Littwin, wrote a particularly poignant piece about the death of the newspaper. Littwin, who says he initially became a journalist because it was fun, takes issue with those of us who rant about newspapers saving democracy.
As a former reporter for the Dallas Morning News, I have to agree with Littwin that being a reporter was fun. I also have to admit that I loved the adrenalin rush that breaking stories and deadlines gave, but those weren’t the reasons I went into journalism.
I entered the field on the heels of Watergate with the dream of becoming the next Woodward or Bernstein. When I was in high school, I even made a trek to the Washington Post and tried to get in to see Mr. Woodward. Although he refused to see me, I remained undeterred in my chosen field.
Despite the twists and turns of my career path, philosophically, I’ve never detoured from the fundamental belief that a democracy cannot survive without freedom of information and the free flow of ideas – all ideas. As the number of gatekeepers of information decreases, the flow of that information trickles to only the information those left standing want you to have.
The Rocky Mountain News posted a 20-minute farewell video on its website that’s well worth watching. In it, sports writer, Jeff Legwold, talks about the importance of newspapers.
“You’ve got to report,” he said. “[At his first job] they had a saying that was painted on the wall there, ‘If your mother says she loves you, check it out.’ And I still follow that rule. I don’t think everybody bloggin’ is following that rule, and until we tell people that’s the difference, a lot more people like us are going to be sitting here telling this story.”
Legwold is right, you know. As a high school journalism teacher, I battle with my students daily about the importance of checking out information at its source and the importance of checking and re-checking information, especially information from the Internet. Sadly, most of my students think if it’s posted on the Internet it must be true.
Unfortunately, the death of the Rocky Mountain News signals continued troubles for our nation’s newspapers, and ultimately, the free flow of ideas. Call me a rebel, but even at 52, I’ve never liked anyone picking what information they think I should have, and I've never liked others choosing my ideas for me, either.
Give me all of it, and let me decide.Powered by Sidelines