Insert Comma logo
Insert Comma • A Portfolio of Leigh E. Rich
Thirty years yet miles of the medium-metaphor to go

Jon Stewart, Neil Postman, and “understanding the politics and epistemology of media”

By Leigh E. Rich

Right after completing my doctorate, I took a job as a political reporter. The pay was lousy, the position had little to do with the health sciences, and the newspaper, though respected, wasn’t big enough to compete with the (then) two local dailies and major television stations. I worked odd hours and wore many hats, from writer and copy editor to production artist and all-around assistant. It was, perhaps, my “year of the intern.” And I loved every second of it.

I don’t know if I could say the same had I worked at a major publication. For one thing, no major publication would have hired me. Despite having been tied to a newspaper since the age of fifteen (thanks to English teacher Bonnie Kelly and all the open-minded editors who came after), the “real” world doesn’t often know what to do with an academic. Many think we don’t know an honest day’s work, we’re all theory and no praxis, and in general we’re just out of touch. To be sure there are some who fit this bill, but the percentage likely isn’t that much greater than in any other profession. That said, I will be the first to admit that I am probably not “major daily” material. I am not a fast writer (the old adage about “opening veins” better describes my ever-tortured state), and I struggle with brevity (as anyone who reads these JBI editorials already knows!).

On the other hand, I probably wouldn’t have chosen to work for them. At The Colorado Statesman (and papers such as the Intermountain Jewish News and the Tucson Weekly and others), I could be the queen of the 1,500-plus word article, and the weekly format and special supplements of these publications allowed for more research and reflection. My editor at the IJN in Denver, when asked by writers how many column-inches an article should be, would always respond, “As long as it takes to tell the story.” I also have been fortunate to work for editors with advanced degrees in law, religion, political science, and literature, although these exist at the dailies, too. But what I appreciated most was a commitment to journalistic independence—perhaps easier to come by at smaller papers, since the lawmakers and the rainmakers hardly ever vie for your attention and few of the other print and TV reporters see you as real competition. Whether true independence is possible is not likely, but a journalist who is contemplative and transparent about his or her biases, uninterested in power and favours, and sceptical as a matter of course has at least a shot. (And for those who think journalists must kowtow to advertisers, another editor often reminded me that though these help fund our salaries, our articles provide them a visible and attractive conveyance. Otherwise, you’d see more “pennysavers.”) [continued …]

Read the full article for free

Rich, Leigh E. 2015. Thirty years yet miles of the medium-metaphor to go: Jon Stewart, Neil Postman, and “understanding the politics and epistemology of media.” Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 12(3): 369–375.

Comments are closed.