How Journalism Used to Really Matter

by Isabel Braverman

Extra! Extra! Read all about it: journalism is dead!

Ok, so it is my strongly held belief that journalism is not, and will not become, dead (mostly because it’s how I plan to “make a living”). But as a journalism student and a media consumer all I am hearing is that I won’t have a job upon graduation. How am I supposed to believe in the very thing that I support, in something that still exists, when I am told it won’t exist? What happened to the glory days when journalism was important, when people gladly paid to read the news, nay begged for news.

This ranting is coming from what I will refer to as my weekend love affair with journalism. It started when my apartment rented the movie-musical Newsies, which I had never seen before. This is surprising because it combines my two loves–journalism and dance (and the close third singing). It was made in the 90’s and starred a young Christian Bale as a singing and dancing newspaper boy, or a newsie, with an exaggerated and horrible “New York accent.” He and his cronies, the other young newsies, roamed the streets of New York selling newspapers, or as they so lovingly dubbed them “papes.”

It showed the time when everyone– rich, poor, socialites, boxers– read the newspaper. A real newspaper, the kind you can hold in your hands (whatever happened to those?) It was a concept that was so normal and every day. But imagine a modern New York in which young boys run around screaming that day’s headlines and people scramble to pull out their two dollars to pay them for the bevy of information that newspapers offer. That wouldn’t happen. They would be met with yells of “Stop screaming about the election, I’m trying to read my iPhone” and “What is that paper with tiny words that you are holding?” I propose we bring back the newsies. I’ll start by shouting headlines from this week’s Ithacan around campus and see what happens.

My “love affair with journalism” continued when I paid a visit to vintage store Petrune downtown where they have issues and issues of the New Yorker from the 50’s and onward. I picked up a copy from 1958 and was instantly enthralled with its quaint old-fashioned articles and advertisements (is 1950 too recent to be called old-fashioned? Probably). I sat on the floor like a little kid when they first learn how to read, reading aloud sentences that caught my fancy to my friends who were just trying to look at records as I begged them to be as fascinated as I was with the stories and, especially, the language in which they were told.

Anyway, what really caught my attention was an ad for Newsweek that said this:

“Our editors put it this way–We should meet our readers at eye level– not looking up to them as demi-gods who have to be entertained, flattered or kidded– not looking down to them as individuals who have to be told what to think or how they should respond.”

Thank you Newsweek. If only all media could follow that model, including you present day Newsweek.

As I was watching Newsies and reading the New Yorker I was transported to a time when journalism really did matter. Let’s bring that back.