I Have a Gripe

August 7, 2016

Journalist vs. Commentator

This shouldn’t be semantics or money. People will read this, and they’ll believe us.
~Henry Hackett, The Paper

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. More specifically, I wanted to be a journalist. One of my favorite movies is The Paper and my favorite classes in college were my journalism and print production classes. I did well in those classes, and more importantly, I was good. I wrote for The Setonian, my college paper, and even elevated to News Editor at one point. I wrote some pieces that made me very proud. There was a racially-charged fight on campus that I covered. I did some stupid things, like go to a guy’s dorm room alone to get his side of the story. I went (well, I tried) to a BSU meeting to get a comment. They asked me to leave, but I got the story. I wound up getting threats and was assigned an escort to go to classes for awhile. I pissed everyone off. I knew I was covering the story right when I got hit from both sides. It was a rush. Too bad Hurricane Irene flooded my basement and all my clips went in the dumpster.

Layout nights weren’t always a lot of fun (yes, old school layout, like running galleys through waxers and making box corners with 2pt rule and a blade). They were especially painful when layout would last until 3:00 a.m., my news writing class was at 8:00 a.m. and I was allowed zero excuses to miss. I still loved it and learned a lot. I could read upside down and backwards so I could understand how typesetting progressed. I memorized the AP Stylebook (I still have my original spiral bound copy) and to this day when I read a news story or hear a reporter on television, I am mentally editing what they are reporting based on my learning from my advisor, Professor (now PhD) Gottlieb.

When Dr. Gottlieb (who was also the advisor of the paper) would review my work for approval to publish and gave me a “good job” it was the ultimate high. In 1991 I received the Wordsmith Award for an essay I wrote. I was also a finalist in the photography category. It was awesome. I had grandiose plans of becoming a hard journalist and eventually an investigative reporter.

Well, I graduated into the worst job market in decades and took whatever job I could. I did wind up in print production, so it was at least an area I really enjoyed. My journalism plans, however, were put on the shelf. As the Internet rose in popularity and print began its slow descent, I had to find something else. I became the exact opposite of a journalist – a flack. I now work in digital marketing and specialize in SEO and analytics. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud that I am self-taught in all this technology and am always learning more. I am, however, very sorry I never had that chance to become a real journalist. At least I have my blogs that feed my writing outlet.

Why am I explaining all this? There’s a reason, trust me.

I hate columnists! Why do I have all these columnists? I got political columnists, guest columnists… celebrity columnists – The only thing I don’t have is a dead columnist. That’s the kind I could really use…. We reek of opinions. What every columnist at this paper needs to do is to shut the fuck up.
~Bernie White, The Paper

I read and watch a lot of news and every day I am increasingly ill. The profession I so desperately wanted is now a joke. Journalist, columnist, commentator – at one point in history they were all individual jobs. Now it is hard to tell the difference. For example, look at the following two headlines and ledes that cover that same story:

The New York Times
Can G.O.P. Tell Donald Trump, ‘You’re Fired’? Probably Not
We are in the midst of yet another of Donald J. Trump’s self-inflicted spirals of terrible news. And with prominent Republicans saying they will back Hillary Clinton and others announcing this week that they won’t endorse Mr. Trump, there has been yet another round of speculation about how the party could get rid of him.

ABC News
Senior GOP Officials Exploring Options if Trump Drops Out
Republican officials are exploring how to handle a scenario that would be unthinkable in a normal election year: What would happen if the party’s presidential nominee dropped out?

ABC News has learned that senior party officials are so frustrated — and confused — by Donald Trump’s erratic behavior that they are exploring how to replace him on the ballot if he drops out.

Neither of these pieces are labeled as an editorial. The New York Times piece, however, reads like a blog post. This is NOT news. It is opinion peppered with news. The ABC News piece is more down the line.

Here is another example.

Chicago Tribune
Body cams give close-up, disturbing view of fatal police shooting
Newly issued body cameras worn on the front of officers’ vests provided a disturbing, close-up view of the tragic events and questionable decisions made when Chicago police fatally shot an African-American teen trying to flee in a stolen sports car.

The word “disturbing” should not be anywhere in the headline and the lede is even worse. I was taught to ALWAYS take care when using adjectives and adverbs. This is NOT objective journalism. It is meant to incite.

There have been many different topics recently in the news that have been provocative. The presidential election, race relations, and a lot more. Unfortunately, many in the news industry and not hiding their personal opinions and biases.

This is not the level of journalism that sparked my soul. Maybe Dr. Gottlieb should teach some reminder classes.

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December 8, 2013

Religious Music and Public Schools

When I was in elementary school, I loved how festive things were as we inched closer and closer to Christmas. Every class participated in decorating the school. I remember making “stained glass windows” in art class using black paper and brightly colored tissue paper. There were always two trees on either side of the stage. Each year one grade would put on a play of some sort and of course the concert.

Wow, have things changed…

Fast forward a few decades (not saying how many) and most auditoriums are bare. No trees or decorations. There was one principal I know of that would purchase poinsettia plants (using his own money, mind you) so there was something around the stage. After he retired? The stage was completely bare. Oh, and they are no longer called “Christmas concerts.” They are “holiday” or “winter” concerts.

To me, all these changes pale in comparison to the biggest issue in my opinion – the attempt to eliminate any religious music whatsoever from the concert.

When I went to high school, we ended every concert with the singing of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. Once you graduated, you would be invited to join the chorus for the singing of the piece with the current students. I can’t imagine not having that experience either as a student or after I graduated.

More and more schools are asking music teachers to submit their program for review and approval. There is great concern by some that the concept of separation of church and state should include the elimination of all music with a reference to some type of religious reference. As I see it, there are two major issues related to this entire situation.

First, the separation of church and state today has been taken completely out of context. The original reason for this separation was to ensure the government does not endorse any specific religion. The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Children playing and singing music with a religious tone does not count as an endorsement of a specific religion.

Second, just as religion is part of history, religious music is an important part of music history and education. Just like Handel’s Messiah and O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, these pieces have significant places in music and children should not just learn their words and music, but their histories.

As a result of the over-zealous attempt to eliminate this important genre of music from music programs across the country, organizations such as The American Center for Law and Justice have provided various documentation to help protect music teachers when planning their lessons and their concerts. Most music teachers I know keep a letter similar to the one linked here to protect their music programs. I also know of some districts where a letter like this is on file in their board office.

The fact that this needs to happen at all is amazing to me. When I first heard of issues such as these, it was in the South Orange/Maplewood, NJ School District. Since then, other towns have attempted to follow suit. Most have thankfully have lost. I remember a number of years ago when my husband was at doctor’s office he was asking him about his upcoming concert. He began to explain the situation just as many other teachers do, that he needs to produce his planned concert repertoire for approval. The doctor’s response? “That’s ridiculous. I was the little drummer boy for years in school and I wasn’t scarred for life.” This was in reference to his Jewish heritage. It made me laugh considering I had just recently read an article about how a Jewish man now in his 30’s said as a child he was incredibly uncomfortable with his experience as the little drummer boy as a child.

At the end of the day, all the festivities related to Christmas and Hanukkah should be celebrated as they have for generations. It is not an endorsement of a religion; it is an endorsement of valuing the importance of music education.

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