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August 21, 2002

Little voice

Ron Rosenbaum: Columbia's J-School Needs to Consider Trollopian Retooling

Columbia's J-school is considering its role in light of selecting a new dean, and Rosenbaum asks what do J-schools do? A friend, he says, has the succinct answer: "They beat the voice out of them", meaning, of course, the students.

Since the article's very long, I want to pull out what he calls the "philosophic fallacies" of J-school theology:

1) The Fallacy of Third-Person "Objectivity": There’s a strong current of J-school theology that worships the third person as if it were the Third Person of the Trinity, and that despises the First Person with a puritanical fervor, as if "I" were Satan's Own Pronoun.

Over and over again in J-school classes, students who had internalized this theology would ask me plaintively, "How can you justify using the first person — isn’t the third person more 'objective'?" Or, literally, "Are you sure it’s O.K. to use the first person?" I almost felt as if I were in Oliver Twist’s orphanage: "Please, sir, can I have my voice?" ...

2) The Second J-School Fallacy might be called The Fallacy of What Is Really "Hard News."

The idea that "hard news" is only about politics, economics and diplomacy is built into J-school ideology. Despite recent events that have demonstrated rather dramatically that such "soft news" subjects as theology are really hard news, reporting about ideas, about cultural questions ... has only recently begun to get a foothold in J-schools ...
3) The third, perhaps most controversial of what I'm calling the Three Fallacies of J-School might be called The Anti-Sensationalist Fallacy.

Beneath this fallacy lies the belief that the only real news is official news of state: news of politics and economics, news made by legislative bodies rather than human bodies, news made by people with credentials.

I took 2 j-school classes, and was trained by j-school students on The Way to Write, and I find myself fighting all my hard-learned wisdom to write for this 'blog.

Voice is everything in a blog, and attitude is the major component of voice. This is why I still read Dave Winer everyday. Journalism, on the other hand, is about at least the appearance of voiceless objectivity.

If you present one side, you have to give equal time to the other. If you have an opinion that the source is lying, but no one will say so, best keep it to yourself.

And of course, blogs fly in the face of the 3rd fallacy, showing that somebody is interested in news made by the uncredentialed.

August 21, 2002 in About NotD | Permalink