Trump! Rape! Murder! Russia! BLM! Protest! If I haven’t caught your attention, you weren’t going to read anyway.
If you’re still reading, welcome to journalism. You asked for it, we answered. I think?
I entered Augustana as an 18-year-old wanting to write about sports. Journalism seemed the easiest way to make that happen. In four years, a lot has changed. ESPN just laid off many of the writers I grew up reading. Grantland was shuttered.
And I learned to care about real journalism, about more than just sports.
Unfortunately for me, it seems right as I’m discovering this, the public is forgetting. Today, telling the story isn’t enough. You must insert a narrative that will attract eyes. When once you earned readership for doing the right work, today, you borrow attention through provocation. You must generate clicks.
Members of the journalism program visited the Washington Post this fall. I saw a building of history outside and the scary future of journalism inside.
The biggest of many large screens in the newsroom displayed page clicks and site visits, constantly updating. It was the mecca of the Washington freaking Post. The same paper hell-bent on trailing Nixon now served at the altar of stats.
At the end of the 19th century, presses turned to yellow journalism to sell papers. The market yearned for it. Sensationalism sold. At the beginning of the 21st century, journalists are maintaining their ethics but stretching them. Most don’t lie. Let’s get that straight. But they are encouraged to move the juiciest quotations toward the top of the story no matter what. Is that representative? Who cares.
I don’t ask that you read the daily paper all the time. God knows I don’t. With everything going on in the world, I don’t care to keep up. I’m with you. But I would ask you to do this: do some research. Find a news source or journalist you believe to be trustworthy, unbiased and motivated to tell the right stories. Then stick with that entity until it gives you reason not to.
I hope the Mirror was that entity for Augustana this year. That was my ambition when I took up the post of editor-in-chief. That’s my goal for our Forum editor Jacob Knutson as he takes up my post next year. Trust me—this humble rag is in good hands.
I doubt there’s a student at AU that reads this thing cover-to-cover, but I know I did every Wednesday night at 4 a.m., making sure every story in each section was told as honestly as possible, without name misspellings, grammatical errors, mis-sourcing, negligence or defamation.
I did it because I wanted to attach my name to something worth a damn, something that told honest, unbiased stories about our small community.
That pride will stay with me as I leave Augustana. I hope each member of the Mirror staff, every Viking and every person takes pride in something. To avoid nihilism, I encourage you, the reader, to do the same.
Thanks for reading, even if you needed some buzzwords to help.
Jacob Belgum is a journalism and accounting major from Atwater, Minn.