Archives for posts with tag: newspaper

OKAY, so the title is a little brash. And everyone’s got an opinion about the fall of journalism, the great tragedy of the dying newspaper, the vacuum of local news media… but here’s one more, with a twist!

Let’s depart from all this mourning and woe-bearing, away from the image of the journalist laden with heavy wood cross, dragging it about for the benefit of the rest of us. Don’t get me wrong here. I love journalists, and I will sing them praises any day. But can we please stop pretending there’s something so precious about 20th century American journalism?

If we look at the state of the world today (or perhaps pre-2000 for the sake of argument), how effective has journalism been? How has the news industry served a noble role? Undoubtedly there were many issues (some we will never know) that came to resolution through both the active work of journalists and the realistic possibility of journalistic investigation. The processes and the social construction of journalism can have positive, wide-scale effects! However, what has journalism not been able to mitigate?

The rise of the corporation, the corruption of our government (sometimes of money, but mostly of dependence and influence), the continued destruction of the Earth’s environment (to a degree that threatens all life on the planet), illegal wars waged on the basis of no real evidence, and (of course) the list continues.

Journalism can’t–and shouldn’t–be held responsible for any of these things. But, these are things its practice has not been able to prevent. Great, all this argument and we’ve figured out journalism isn’t perfect–so what!?

Well, instead of mourning journalism, why not take this opportunity to reinvent it? Why not take this opportunity to create forms of journalism-esque practices that succeed where journalism has not?

Take for example that a dominant portion of journalism (with all its damn integrity) were for-profit ventures! Today we have the opportunity to support a non-profit journalism industry that is not fueled by sensations that supplement bottom-lines.

Further, and this is the crux of my argument, I suggest that in the stead of the independent, investigative journalist, there may rise the role of the 21st century activist. Using this word with caution (activist is a tricky one indeed), I mean to say that individuals with pointed goals, with narrower scopes of interest, can fulfill the roles (and more) of the 21st century journalist. Why? We can have more of them. So many more. The term activist has often been a specialized term, but the one I draft here is much more broad–anyone can be an activist, and we all should. No, we all must, else the misgivings of this last century continue through the next.

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Craigslist, the simple (often too simple) online listings service. Some claim it has single-handedly annihilated the American newspaper business model. But in so many ways, it has innovated and built on that old model of newspaper listings.

Take for example the Rideshare listings, found under the “community” section. For anybody who’s picked up Kerouac’s On The Road, whether you love it or hate it, you could see ride-sharing services existed even in the 50’s. However, they had the disadvantage of being analog (maybe telephonic), rather than digital and available over a big, big network of computers and mobile devices.

On a rideshare I took from Los Angeles to the Bay Area this week, the driver mentioned he had been giving and taking rides for five years. After I scratched my head and counted a few fingers, I figured out I too had been doing rides on Craigslist for five years! What a nice chunk of time. We published a story  by Evan Winchester about the rideshare experience a few years ago in a magazine I co-founded called The Gutenberg. Evan has taken many rides between the Bay Area and Sacramento, and more than having a few stories, he has the wit and thoughtfulness to try to make sense of the whole experience, in a way that is introspective and true.

My most recent ride includes our driver, Mauricio, a front-seat passenger Zach, and my fellow back-seater Francois. Mauricio’s van is packed full of stuff–he tells me he’s moving up North after I step in from a Jack in the Box parking lot in Canoga Park, close the door and take a seat. He failed to mention this, along with the state of his van (running well, but visually suspect) as we talked and texted on the phone, coordinating pick-up and travel plans a few days prior. But I’m not upset, and I like Mauricio very much. He studied mathematics in school, like me, and now designs sustainable fixtures (solar, water, etc) for low-income families through a Bay Area non-profit. Zach is visiting his girlfriend in San Francisco, though he works in LA doing mobile app development for museums and the like. Francois goes to UC Berkeley and was visiting family in LA, though he’s from Maryland, and is now returning to Berkeley for summer school.

The San Juaquin Valley brings on a swelter. We sleep, chat about this and that, adjust our bodies, joke around, and swap ridesharing stories. Mauricio has given tons of rides, the only bad one was picking up a kid getting out of Humboldt back to Berkeley who lied about not having money and forced Mauricio to drive the kid to two different friends’ houses just to get the gas money he owed. Every other ride was fine, including one extraordinary ride in which Mauricio and several of his friends slept on a giant mattress in the back of a converted school bus. At one point, the driver had to make a detour to Ventura or somewhere and got in an argument with a Storage Facility Security Guard trying to hide a book in a bush for somebody else to pick up later, all while wearing nothing but a tiny, tight pair of tie-die underwear.

But most rides were pretty normal for Mauricio, including this one. Zach mentions a time a passenger smoked out the car (driver excluded), which was by far the most comfortable 6-hour drive he’s taken. Zach also described a far-out story where he, his friend, and his friend’s father got into an argument with a German submarine as their 20′ boat tried to pass through secured waters on their way to a German port, on a long boating trip. The submarine surfaced right in front of them, but after much threatening and American Military talk from Zach’s friend’s father, they were let through, and went to port.

Francois does not have too many exciting travel stories, especially since this is only his second rideshare–the first being his ride from Berkeley to LA for the very visit he is now concluding. The ride down, he says, was insane. The driver barreled down the 5 and made dangerous lane-changes. Francois was left disconcerted; he thought there was no such need to hurry. He brings up that many of his friends think he’s nuts for taking this ride. I echo the sentiments of my mother and her twin sister–recollections of their high school classmate who was killed while hitchhiking. Zach also knows more than a handful of skeptics. We all stretch, smile, and lean back. We feel comfortable, like part of a club, the members of which made a brief leap and landed softly, or at least softly enough to be here, in a van, on the highway, in the heat, heading North.