The Challenges of Being a Young, Fresh Journalism Graduate

Why we choose to become journalists or media professionals is, of course, a unique decision to each and everyone of us, but the common dream of every student who pursues an academic degree in journalism is universal. That common dream is to change the world. We enter this field hopeful and naive, filled with a fervent passion for finding knowledge and truth in a world that is in a constant flux of change. Academically and career-wise, we are tabulae rasae, blank slates that are still fresh and raw, waiting to be molded and chiseled by knowledge and experience.

My university has offered me a distinct opportunity in my media studies. The program it offers is labeled as Mass Communication, i.e. different media and information communication forms amalgamated into one major. What makes this program special is that, as a Mass Communication student, I am exposed to various aspects of media, ranging from print journalism (my personal favorite), broadcast journalism (my least favorite, considering I am the least photogenic person on earth), advertising, to public relations, and etc. Naturally, as a college student, I might not have enjoyed all of these courses, but as a media student about to enter the workforce, I certainly do appreciate the wide knowledge they endowed me with during my academic career so far.

The challenges we face as fresh graduates are simple. Firstly, the spectrum of journalism, or what can be labeled as journalism, is much broader now than it was fifty years ago. Any Tom, Dick, or Harry can start a blog, create content, and call it news or journalism, but that doesn’t make Tom, Dick, or Harry legitimate journalists. This is not to criticize citizen journalism, which I wholeheartedly encourage, but to distinguish between real journalists and people who simply want to share their stories or information in a subjective form.

Secondly, media is a very wide and multifaceted field, and one can find an endless array of paths to choose from within it. The variety that it offers media students is what makes it beautiful, but it also creates an issue for the young, possibly indecisive graduate, and that is the question of “Which path should I choose?” We are given so many options, and unless we already know which path we want to follow (like me and my undying love for the written word), we are faced with a million difficult choices, and we must ultimately choose which path we want to embark on.

Thirdly, is the issue of safety. This applies to hostile environments and locations, the internet, even in our homes. We live in a dangerous and volatile world, and as journalists, we are entrusted to represent it and help people better understand it. However, that does not inherently protect us, not from bullets, lawsuits, scandals, backlash, or anything that may come at us, and we have to be ready for it. I imagine that it’s not easy to cope with negative backlash or the proverbial can of worms that may erupt in any situation or due to any story. Granted, in some cases, consequences are warranted, in cases of libel or fallacy or whatnot, but it should not be an inherent issue in general, as it sometimes is. Journalists deserve to be protected and safe, not targeted because of their work.

Fourthly, is the issue of ethics. Obviously, I hope for all media students going into journalism, TV production, advertising, public relations, or what-have-you, to be ethical media professionals and to have integrity in their work. However, many people do not possess ethics and integrity, and the young graduate is somewhat ill-equipped to handle unethical or Machiavellian activities, and they shouldn’t have to, and should strive instead to remedy these issues.

Personally, I believe that the media field is a very tough arena and those who enter it are brave souls. We are stepping into a field that influences much of how the world perceives things, including politics, society, economics, and education, even things like beauty, sexuality, and psychology. We are exposed to media from birth; we are molded by it to an extent, and to willingly become a part of its inner workings is a proactive action. The reason I believe becoming a journalist or a media professional of any kind is proactive is because we are actively taking part in the industry that influences and represents the world as we know it. Ultimately, it is worth it, because we are each making a difference.

Human Trafficking PSA (Emma Thompson): A Mediatized Look at Suffering

The idea of suffering has been picked apart and over-analyzed many times over, but it remains a vital element of human nature. In our Media and Society course, we learn that suffering is a unifying concept, in the sense that we either unify in sympathy, apathy, or a sense of schadenfreude. As humans, it is in our nature to observe others and in doing so, we also observe others’ suffering. Our reactions to the suffering of others highly depends on our subject position (i.e. our cultural, social, political backgrounds, etc.) and our own personal insights. However, suffering has somewhat of a universal aspect to it, because we all, in one way or another, have either witnessed it or experienced some form of suffering.
In this PSA, actress Emma Thompson lip-syncs testimonials from survivors of sex trafficking, and in doing so, she represents their suffering. Without any need for ornate props or extravagant language, she conveys the suffering of these victims through her facial expressions.
The reason I found this video so moving was the fact that she is conveying others’ words and representing their suffering. It is a prime example of true empathy. It’s like watching someone literally put themselves in someone else’s shoes and tell the tale through their eyes. In this video, Thompson becomes a mouthpiece for sex trafficking victims everywhere.
Suffering is represented in media as something collective, as something we should all feel. Yet, we have become so desensitized to others’ suffering, that it doesn’t even register with us anymore. Media creates either a spectacle or a mockery of suffering, and either way, people react to it differently. There is no one way to represent or perceive suffering, and so, we are left with analyses and explanations of something that is subject to an endless array of variables.

What Makes a Great Performance (from someone who can’t perform for shit)

Bogey & Bacall: A romance for the ages. Sigh...

Bogey & Bacall: A romance for the ages. Sigh…

As a firm believer and supporter of the classics, I tend to veer towards the more classic and neoclassic fields of both literature and theatre. Nothing compares to the way Shakespeare describes Romeo admiring Juliet on her balcony, how “she doth teach the torches to burn bright,” words so evocative, that they make the reader fall in love with Juliet themselves. Nothing compares to the way F. Scott Fitzgerald describes Daisy Buchanan’s voice as being “full of money,” unfolding her character so illustratively, that the reader can’t help but hear her lush voice in their ears. I believe that words, the way they were written, and the way in which they were meant to be read are integral to a great performance, in any field of expressive art.

Aristotle specifies three main rules of drama, called the Aristotelian unities (Poetics, 335 BCE), which are the unities of action, time, and place. The French later added a fourth, the unity of uniformity, meaning that all dramatis personae should be unified, i.e. tragic in a tragedy, comic in a comedy, and farcical in a farce. These rules are seen in many classic and even some more modern examples of theatre or drama. For example, Ulysses, by my beloved James Joyce, is one such story, wherein all the events occur within the same day, June 16th, 1904, and in the same place (Dublin), and where all of the characters are interrelated in their actions. Another example is the classic eighties film, The Breakfast Club (1985), in which the characters are, again, in one place, in unified action, and in one day.

In accordance with Aristotle’s classical unities, I believe that a great performance collectively relies on the theatrical work itself. Actors can only draw upon and manifest the play or skit or film if it is written well. I realize that this is a very literary way to look at theatre, but think of it this way. Nowadays, we think of Shakespeare as one of the greatest and most talented playwrights in history, recreating his plays in high schools, on stages, and on screens. Yet, we have never seen a performance of his plays back in 1592, back when they were fresh off the presses, so to speak. So, why is it then that we revere him so much now, nearly six centuries later? Because of his writing, that’s why. His writing includes not only the Aristotelian unities, but a richness and beauty that can endure the test of time and reality TV.

What makes a performance great is the work that is being performed and how it is performed. In my preparation for my final monologue, the sleepwalking scene from Macbeth (Act 5, Scene I), I watched many different performances of the monologue I chose, and the most poignant and mind-blowing one was by Judi Dench in a 1979 performance of the play (with Ian McKellan as Macbeth, no less). It moved me so, because she was so loyal to the original script, and thus captured Lady Macbeth’s anguish and remorse so perfectly, that you could feel her being crushed by this onus of guilt.

I believe that a great performance is the culmination of both preparation and understanding of a character and a role. What goes into the preparation for a role is not only memorization and mindless repetition, but a growing understanding and empathy with the character one is playing. One must identify with their character, at least on some level and to some extent, in order to truly transmit their essence to the audience.

The wonderful thing about theatre is that there is so much history to learn from and to find inspiration in. Performing a role convincingly is not just the product of remembering your lines and imitating someone else’s performance, but being the character, the way the author, playwright, screenwriter, or what-have-you, intended him or her to be, through you. We interpret our characters in our own ways, surely, but our characters, and thusly, our performances, largely depend on the larger work itself. We need context; context is everything.

Additionally, an actor must have an intrinsic sense of fluidity and anonymity, through which he or she may be able to absorb and reproduce a new persona. An actor must also possess an acute awareness of his or her fellow actors, the stage, the setting, the sounds, the lighting, and everything around them that contributes to their performance. An actor must take what he or she is given in a well-written and worthy script and then, create the character before our eyes.

The world of theatre is a magical and spectacular place to me. It brings words that I love and cherish to life in myriad ways, both beautiful and grotesque, joyful and sorrowful, heartwarming and heart-wrenching. The caliber of the performances in front of me are, to me, extensions of the words being portrayed and said, and their value lies in their authenticity and faithfulness to the story. But that’s just me. I might be wrong. I take the bookworm approach to everything in life.

Communication as Culture

In our readings, we absorb a lot of references, examples, and literary “white noise,” but the theories we study are simple in their inclusive universality. The concept of communication as culture refers to the understand that communication, in all its forms, transformations, and interpretations, is a form of culture. Silverstone mentions that media and society cannot be separated, because they are interdependent, media feeds on society and society needs media to act as its moral and cultural compass.

Communication transcends distance, geography, language, race, ethnicity, what-have-you, in order to convey a message, whatever that message may be, to the world, whether it be to a designated target demographic or the world in general. The internet, for example, the modern-day evolutionary apotheosis of expression, is a perfect embodiment of this concept. “Communication as culture” on the internet, or online, in general, is evident in our everyday life. We post and like pictures on Instagram and interact with strangers from around the world, all of us different, yet sharing the experience of the online photo sharing application and participating in the “selfie” culture that it promoted.

Communication knows no bounds, as it is the incarnation of man’s innate need for expression. It evolves with us; growing from cave paintings to pigeons to snail mail to telegrams to phones to televisions to emails to Instagram pictures of cats in ugly Christmas sweaters. Communication, and by extension, media, is our culture.