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If journalism’s a religion, I need help converting

April 16th, 2010 Posted in Opinion

By Safiyyah Ballard

LOGAN–Joe Dougherty, Tyler Riggs, Josh Loftin, Emilie Wheeler, and Kristen Moulton are all journalists. Real, live journalists who write for a news source as a way to make a living. Their community has accepted that they have an inoperable tumor, and that tumor is going to lead to a death in maybe five to 10 years. That tumor is the newspaper. The above mentioned journalists came to post-earthquake Logan on Friday to survey the damage.

They came to Utah State University to speak with students in the journalism and communication department, to try to encourage them that they can be real journalists and make a living. Every one of them offered anecdotes, complete with the “Aha!” moment when they discovered this is what they were born to do. Whether they fell into it or had a passion for journalism all their lives, they realized that they were never going to have the money, the fame, the cars and girls. Or boys.

(I still want a little bit of money. OK, maybe more than I little bit. I want to be one of those people that hate tax time because I make enough money that I owe taxes, instead of being given some “tax credit” for being poor. I’m trying to bust out of my tax bracket.)

What I learned today was that I can use “I.” I can have a voice as a journalist as long as I don’t use that voice at a rally of any kind. I also learned that I need to be called into journalism. Journalism is a religion. They have their high priests (Cronkite, Rather, and Brokaw) and they have their commandments (thou shall not libel or lie). They have the communal ideology of the early Mormon settlers, complete with self-segregation and expectant millennialism. They do not seek worldly riches and they exist with the self-righteous ideal that they know more than everyone else. They have the real answers and they have been chosen to live the life that no one else can do.

Honestly, today disturbed me. Not that anyone of these people was disturbing, except Josh, but what they said was scary. The advice they gave was as follows:

— If you know how to write, you must also know how to take pictures and shoot video.

–If you know how to take pictures and video, you must also know how to write.

–You can work in your pajamas while you watch “The Price is Right.”

–If you can purchase season passes at Lagoon for a family of four, you have “made it.”

–You don’t get into this profession to make money, you do it because you believe it is important.

With journalism being a religion, let me just say this: I’m not sure if I believe. No offense to the panel and my professors, but both of my parents are preachers and one of them is a retired USMC drill instructor on top of being a crazy Christian. I grew up in church, and I am not sure if the Christian lifestyle is for me.

I believe that journalism is important, the same I believe that a spiritual relationship is important. I just am waiting to see who can figure out how to rise above the Sodom and Gomorrah of the Internet. The noise of the op-eds and the pundits. Who will stand up as David against the Goliath that is big media? I’m ready to convert, but I need some help. The best missionaries roll out in groups of twos. Pajama party, anyone?


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  1. 3 Responses to “If journalism’s a religion, I need help converting”

  2. By Josh Loftin on Apr 18, 2010

    I’m not sure what I said or did that was disturbing, but it’s a compliment in my world — something I learned as a student columnist at the Statesman, by the way. I got called far worse than that, in fact.

    While I dispute that the best missionaries roll in pairs, I like the idea that journalists need to get evangelical. The problem is that they have to act more like Martin Luther or (yes) Joseph Smith: they have to challenge to accepted status quo (mainstream media) and risk looking completely insane. I have a lot more to say on this, but for more, just go to my website (joshloftin.com). There’s a few posts there, and more to come. In the meantime, thanks for having me and listening.

  3. By Safiyyah Ballard on Apr 19, 2010

    I read your article at your website and it was enlightening. I did appreciate the panel’s overall honesty. I’m glad you take ‘disturbing’ as a compliment. I think you’re awesome.

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