The Cyberbrains

Research and contemplation in new media

It’s the puppies and babies, stupid.

I may have learned more in the past three weeks about the challenges of journalism than I have in the past three years. All by not paying attention to it.

The winter break is wrapping up here in academia. It is a blessed perk that almost makes up for the mediocre pay and bureaucratic rubbish. Professors and their students get nearly a month without classes to reacquaint themselves with family, Granddaughter Evelynmind and humanity.

I decided to give up writing in this blog for the break and to try not to think about the nightmare decisions facing the media in the coming years. For a few short weeks, I would not utter “citizen journalism.”

And by not trying to analyze it, now I get it. The quirk in the information world that brings joy to the hearts of millions of Americans is very little like what most of us in the industry think of “citizen journalism.”

The high points of my break were a Christmas trip to Virginia with my family and the addition of a bright-eyed puppy to our household. Pretty ordinary stuff, really. The fact that I got to bounce my cherubic granddaughter on my knee, talk late into the night with my adult children and have my face licked by a tiny puppy hardly qualified as breaking news.

But they were the sole focus in the ordinary life of Clyde Bentley. I could not wait to share my joy with the small cluster of souls I call my friends.

It wasn’t until after I put several dozen photos from Christmas on Flickr, until after I made the new dog my avatar on Facebook and after I had bubbled in excitement on a hobby blog that I realized what citizen journalism is really about.

It’s not covering news. It’s not making the world a safer place for democracy. And it’s not edging out the professionals who inhabit our newsrooms.

My “journalism” for the past three weeks has been about me, not about “citizen.” I really didn’t care if anyone else delighted as my grandson unwrappedManchmalVariationen von poker spielen. bieten spielautomat die ber?hmteBeruhmte casino. Blackjack,Craps. his presents or that my little dog looks at me with eyes like Greta Garbo. I just wanted to tell my world that one person was overwhelmingly excited – me.

Civic life is complex, often confusing and very serious. The journalists who keep tabs on it for us must be equally serious if our way of life is to continue,

But in the deluge of meeting agendas, crime reports and official verbiage we in journalism lost track of the little girls, Christmas ribbons and puppy dogs. There just wasn’t room in the paper and time in the day.Greta the little whippet

Recently a hospital here in Columbia announced it would not issue birth announcements. That may be the last straw in the dehumanization of the public sphere. We once said everyone was guaranteed to be in the paper at least twice – a birth announcement and an obituary. Many papers started charging for obituaries a few years ago. Now people may not even get to know you were born.

But sharing good news is a pan-humanity joy that no editor, lawyer or bureaucrat can deny. The new technology of Web site, e-mail and blog has not replaced traditional journalism that serves society. It has instead allowed “citizens” to add to the news for the masses with the information that dominates a single person’s life for a short time.

I have no doubt that babies will be announced. And pictures of grandkids will be shared.

And puppies? Who could ever resist.

Clyde Bentley


January 17, 2008 - Posted by | Clyde Bentley

1 Comment »

  1. You’re on to something here.

    If you look at old newspapers, you’ll see a lot more of that type of reporting – conversations over the back fence type of thing.

    Maybe the public is hungry for that again.

    Thanks for posting this.


    Comment by K. Paul Mallasch | January 18, 2008 | Reply

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