Monday, August 4, 2008

All Over But the Shoutin'

Oh, wait. Maybe I shouldn't use that for the title of this blog. It is, after all, the title of Rick Bragg's book.

But then titles can't be copyrighted, so technically I'm OK.

And it's a really good title, one that I'm not sure I really understood until now. Because now it really is all over ... but the shoutin' on August 9 when Pomp and Circumstance plays for the gazillionth time and capped and gowned scholars parade past capped and gowned pedagogues and pay homage to Wisdom.

Or something.

I, however, shall participate in spirit only.

So what did I learn this past year?

I learned that trying to define the profession? craft? art? trade? of journalism is like trying to define the boundaries of the oceans. Much depends on the tides, the shifting sands, and whether you're on a boat or on shore.

There are very good reasons for not describing too precisely who is and who is not a journalist -- the Associated Press lists only a high school diploma in its requirements for reporters -- and there are equally compelling concerns about an 'anything goes' rumor-mongering that passes for journalism when the definition becomes too fuzzy.

I learned that most news organizations are three-headed monsters pulling in separate directions, mainly because the business? industry? service? manufacture? of journalism is equally muddled. Financial accounting in the world of journalism is neither strictly based on goods produced nor on services provided. Instead, it's a hybrid. And if you talk to employees in any of the three separate, but supposedly equal (yeah, right) departments -- newsroom, advertising, circulation -- you'll hear three different visions for the company.

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