an open letter
I wrote this mainly to the people who maintain jschoolbuzz.com, and I still mean it that way, but I think it could be interpreted openly across the industry as well.
You want real talk?
I did not offer you any constructive criticism in my initial response to your website because the things I think you and your colleagues need to work on are so vast, so encompassing, so worthwhile that I could not — would not — cramp them into a tweet.
Do you understand that your website is an embarrassment to each student and alumnus of this institution? Do you? Not because of whatever “exposés” you are claiming result from your “investigations,” but because it stands as the perfect example of the stinking cancer eating our industry from within.
Yeah, journalism is in trouble. We know. No one has to tell us because we can feel it, feet on the ground, shouting into apathy’s deafening roar. But the way to combat that is not by creating navel-gazing, self-fellating websites and documentaries that ask the Big Questions about where journalism is going and look back on the way things were. Journalism is not about making a bar graph to better illustrate your piece whining about low J-school job placement rates. (What is job placement, by the way? Take the hour it took you to make that graph and teach yourself how to use Final Cut. You’ll get a job.)
It is the earnest, honest, important work. It is advocating for those who need it and keeping bodies of power in check just as much as it is sharing the feeling of a sticky July day spent at the Boone County Fair. Imagine someone in Afghanistan watching that shit on the Missourian’s YouTube channel.
If you believe in what you do, it will show. And that is what will keep us afloat. On a more selfish note, if you need it, that will also get you a job. Feel free to leave your entitled attitude about your diploma at the door.
My peers are people who understand that necessity and give everything they have to this. We stay awake at night to teach one another about toning video and spend weeks with subjects, chasing ghosts across the days with our lenses. On Feb. 24, you publicly examined your WEBSITE TRAFFIC. Come on.
A cursory examination of your website reveals no passion to me. The fact that you and your peers have chosen this as a real thing to spend your time on, and that someone actually approved this as a capstone with the expectation that you will learn something valuable, is incredible to me. What I see is a group of adult babies who have yet to sit down and think very seriously about the type of people they would like to grow up to be or the contributions they would like to make to this world.
So, here is my constructive suggestion: Do that. All of that. And then get back to me.
I met Philip Gourevitch at a reading in New York once. He signed my copy of his book about Rwanda with a thick black marker as I sheepishly told him I wanted to be a journalist just like him. He looked at me and wryly asked, “And what kind of journalist is that?” I thought about it for a minute. “The kind who does the right thing.” I’m trying.