To the students of Lake Highlands Junior High: Thank you for inviting me to speak at your annual Career Day event last Friday. You were polite and welcoming, you asked intelligent and thought-provoking questions, and you were interested (or pretended to be) in the ever-changing world of journalism. I’m convinced I’ll see some of your names on newspaper bylines, your faces on television news broadcasts and your opinions on social media blogs very soon. (I just hope you won’t be competing with me. You knocked my socks off.)
With approximately 40 participating presenters, you had the opportunity to hear from a wide variety of personalities and professions, from financial analyst Justin Bandt to fireman Robbie Hira to Dallas City Councilman Adam McGough to Fox 4’s Chip Waggoner to neuroscientist Anne Marie Wissman to magician Sam Sawyers (a complete listing can be found below). I would have loved to hear from the other presenters.
Thank you for your rapt attention when I told you that you – yes, you – are a journalist. If you have a cell phone that takes photos and videos (and most all of you do) and you know how to upload to Youtube or other social media, then your “story” may reach hundreds or thousands or even millions of people around the world overnight. It might be shown on the evening news – on ABC, CBS, CNN or any other worldwide network. But it may not need to. Social media today often travels faster, particularly with young people, than major TV, radio or newspaper stories.
Today’s news is changing. It’s shifting from top/down journalism, where a select few feed information to the masses, to include things called “citizen journalism” or “collaborative publishing.” These include things like Facebook, Craigslist, Youtube, Flickr and Wikipedia.
Your parents and grandparents came home from work each evening and got their news from one TV anchor – probably a man with grey hair – but your generation gets information from lots of different sources. You probably don’t read the newspaper in paper format, sitting down at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee, but maybe you may read individual stories digitally when you find them on Facebook or Twitter.
You probably filter your news – and social media filters it for you via complicated algorithms which decide your preferences based on your history. Did you know that if you have a history of reading stories about the Kardashians, more Kardashian stories will show up in your feed? Did you know if you follow baseball, news of Rougned Odor’s suspension will show up in your feed, probably multiple times from multiple news outlets? Did you know that if you are conservative politically, stories about Republicans will pop up, and if you are liberal, stories bashing Republicans will pop up? That’s how news works today.
We had a great discussion about going to college to study journalism, and the fact that today’s J-schools teach “convergence studies,” that is, learning to do it all: writing, editing, photography, investigative reporting, TV anchoring – and maybe even a little weather and traffic on the side.
We talked about the trend toward “hyper-local” journalism, which is what we do here at Lake Highlands Advocate, and I gave you some examples of stories we’ve covered over the years, including LHHS grad Chris Harrison showing up at a recent LHHS soccer game, Will Smith and Tony Romo speaking to Wildcats at an LHHS pep rally, and two kids delivering brownies to the LHHS teachers’ lounge (you’ll recall I showed you the Muffin Men’s mug shots – their prank brought harsh consequences).
We talked about the advantage citizen journalists and online outlets like Advocate have over paper newspapers when reporting a story. Newspapers are slow. Writers have to write the story, then wait while editors edit and formatters arrange the stories to fit together on the page. Then the papers are printed and cut, then driven on trucks to stores and newsstands. But in the case of, say, a big apartment fire in Lake Highlands, we can get word out to the community about how they can help in a matter of minutes. And LH always wants to help.
And I told you what to do if you want to be a journalist: write and read constantly, and be inquisitive. Care about people and have a desire to learn about others.
That’s something you can begin doing today.
And, of course, you can read Advocate Magazine. (Shout out to the kid who said he collects every issue. I wonder if he was pulling my leg.)
Thank you, also, to the other presenters: Jim Benge of Benge General Contracting, speech pathologist Emily Slatkovsky, nurse Amanda Hopkins, Justin Bandt of KPMG, Bill Theissen of GameStop, fireman Robbie Hira, dental hygienist LeeAnn Nelson, SMU athletic trainer Warren Young, Bennie Daniels of State Farm, Whitney Gonzalez of Hewlett Packard, Mike Bishoff of Nationwide Investment, Tomeka Harrod of DART, pharmacist Bailey Lavinsky, Chip Waggoner of Fox 4, Daniel Roby of Austin Street Shelter, fireman Jim Royer, information tech Chris Martin, nurse Alexandra Ponce Deleon, former Chicago Cub Rocky Cherry, Dale Long with City of Dallas, entrepreneur Tiffany Sunday, Laura Harvey of Texas Instruments, Jason Riggins of Hilton, Moses Song of Accenture, Marine Scott Sommers, Lane Conner with Blue Star Sports, Lap Trinh with City of Dallas, Sara Newell with Presbyterian Children’s Home, Prashant Patel of Hotel Corp., Michael Rickett of Lawton Mechanical, neuroscientist Anne Marie Wissman, Faye Moses-Wilkins of DART, magician Sam Sawyers, veterinarian Joe Lindley, Jamie Robertson of Plains Capital Bank, Olga Pope of TI and Mark Phillips with 99.5 The Wolf.