The Future of “Journalism”

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A reader alerted me to what is labeled an “opinion” piece (here it is) put together – it was not written – by a college freshman by the name of Tia Laury, who is described as pursuing a degree in journalism. The thing published under her byline bears examination – not because of the errancy of the opinion expressed but rather to come to terms with just how bad things are at American colleges.

Which helps to understand why they are so bad at American newspapers.

Let’s begin with the headline, which reads: The MU Mask Policy Lacks Proper Campus Safety.

Does it, really?

My teeth begin to ache, already.

Now comes the lead – as we journalists call it:

The coronavirus has forced our world to go into lockdown since spring 2020.” 

Well, let’s see.

Wasn’t it the governments of the world that “forced the world to go into lockdown”? The virus may have been the putative justification – and the merits of that can be debated. But it is factually incorrect to state that the virus “forced the world to go into lockdown.”

And by the way, it’s the world. Not our world. Save the kumbaya for social studies.

She – poor girl – goes on:

At MU, students and faculty have learned how to adapt to wearing masks in educational and social settings.”

No, child. Students and faculty were ordered to “wear masks in educational and social settings.” To style that as “learning how to adapt” is fatuous and treacly, too. State the fact – and then (if it is an opinion piece) give your take on the fact.

“However, due to recently improved conditions of COVID-19 cases, the MU Incident Command Team lifted the requirement of masks on campus.”

Errata, phone home!

What is meant by “recently improved conditions of COVID-19 cases”? She of course means there are fewer cases. And “lifted the requirement of masks on campus”? Italics added. 

An editor could have helped here. Remedial English could have helped more.

“This news not only affects individuals at MU, but also the university’s image since the pandemic is still prevalent.”

How is a pandemic “prevalent”? One ought not to use big words one does not know the meaning and usage of. Also, why is the university’s image at issue? Shouldn’t the issue be whether the measures are necessary?

She struggles onward:

“Moreso, the carelessness of not requiring masks can increase virus cases as the year goes on.” 

Moreso? Journalism majors used to consult these things . . . what were they called? Ah, yes! Dictionaries. Do they have them still at colleges where students study journalism?

“Every day we are surrounded by thousands of people who could carry a life-threatening virus, which can inflict more health problems in the MU community.”

How does one “inflict” something “in the community”? 

Perhaps in the same way that not wearing a “mask” is likely – as this out-of-her-depth-but-no-one-has-told-her young woman puts it – to “falter their success in college.”

Of course, it would be “hateful” to make her aware of this.

Her ” . . . main concern because facing this life-changing sickness can be detrimental.”

I could continue but that would be unmerciful. It would be merciful for someone to help this naif learn to write – before she publishes. This used to be a presumed competence of journalists, since a person who had not learned to write clearly could not communicate clearly.

The college journalism student who cobbled together this concatenation of non sequiturs and crippled malaprops wouldn’t have made it past freshman English at my high school – let alone been published by my high school student newspaper.

But that was the ’80s – when people who hadn’t learned how to write weren’t published.

For their own sake as well as that of the readers.

. . . .

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32 COMMENTS

  1. Morning, Eric!
    Just to clarify:
    The Maneater is not connected in any way to the University of Missouri School of Journalism. It’s run completely by students. Being a freshman, Tia probably hasn’t taken a journalism class yet. But, boy… she has a lot of work to do. Her skills appear more in line with high school freshmen.
    The School of Journalism puts out a “real” daily paper, the Columbia Missourian, which is staffed by students in the journalism program’s newswriting, photojournalism and editing classes. The top editors are journalism faculty. It is a much more professional publication. You would never find anything as poorly written as Tia’s piece there.
    https://www.columbiamissourian.com/
    I have a BJ degree from Mizzou. I worked at the Maneater (at the time a scruffy, rambunctious little rag sniffed at by the “real journalists” at the Missourian), and then later as a photographer, reporter and copy editor at the Missourian. I’m not sure what its status is now, but at that time (right after Watergate), the School of Journalism was considered to be tops in the country, or maybe second place at worst. The Missourian situation was unique: no other school had a real daily newspaper with its own presses, many non-student/faculty employees, and regionwide distribution.
    I would love to be a fly on the wall in the school’s journalism ethics classes today.

    • Thanks, Ronald!

      I think the take-home point here is just how poorly prepared many college students are. It is astounding that a kid who apparently cannot form a coherent, grammatically correct paragraph was even admitted to college… .

  2. Pathetic — when you consider that Buckley wrote “God and Man at Yale” only two years after his graduation.

    I once had the misfortune of being employed as an instructor at a community college… 65% of the classes scheduled there were non-credit remedial sections. Perhaps ten per cent of the students there were capable of learning actual college material. Most of the material that I covered in my for-credit classes would have been taught to eighth and ninth graders 100 years ago…

    • Good morning, X!

      It’s appalling, isn’t it? Bad enough that a college student hasn’t mastered basic sentence composition/grammar. But a journalism major? It’s so bad she doesn’t even realize how bad it is – because she isn’t ashamed to publish such a thing. Even more incredible, it was published.

      It’s still early but I already need a drink!

  3. Thomas Sowell pointed out many years ago that the two college majors selected by those with the lowest SAT scores were journalism and education. It’s no wonder that the college kids in those majors are the least capable of independent thought and expression and the most susceptible to brainwashing. We see the results in the schools and the “news” industry.

    • Indeed, Mike –

      It was not always so, though. Some journalism (e.g., Mencken’s) rises to the bar of literature and even when I began writing professionally back in the daguerreotype early ’90s it was expected that a reporter could write and was capable of conveying the essential information competently. Ideally, interestingly. Those who had the former skill but not the latter talent often became copy editors while the latter sometimes graduated into editorial writers/columnists. There was pride in them thar days. We – of the brotherhood – did not suffer fools gladly. I myself was incredibly lucky to have started my career just in time to meet and even work with some mighty chiefs, including Pat Buchanan and Sam Francis (the latter worked as a columnist at The Washington Times when I was on the editorial page staff; he was a character but above all a superlative writer).

      I have good memories. They keep me warm.

      • But back then, how many of those excellent writers came out of journalism majors? Did you? An education major has been an escape hatch for those failing in their selected majors for decades. Perhaps journalism is joining it. Both require little but adherence to dogma to succeed in.

  4. Hi Eric,

    I love your writing. I want to further break down your breakdown of her bullshit. I hope you enjoy:

    EP: How is a pandemic “prevalent”? One ought not to use big words one does not know the meaning and usage of.

    M: Oh, but in her mind, she already knows the meaning of those words. Because she’s studying to be a journalist, and as a college freshman she knows it all. I’ve seen this trend of trying to use big words but sounding like a dumbass with many other millennials and Gen Zs. One told me last year that because I didn’t know anyone who died of Covaids, that that was “depictive” of my privilege. Lol.

    EP: Also, why is the university’s image at issue? Shouldn’t the issue be whether the measures are necessary?

    M: To rational minds, yes, the issue should be whether the measures are necessary. But to 18/19 year old, low IQ girls, image and appearance come first. C’mon man!

    EP: Moreso? Journalism majors used to consult these things . . . what were they called? Ah, yes! Dictionaries.

    M: “Depictive. Moreso, following the rules of grammar can be “oppressive.” I’m not joking, this is what these people say.

    “Tia Laury is a freshman journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about racial, societal and relationship matters for The Maneater.”

    By her name and what she chose as her description, it sounds like she is a Korean-American. Just kidding. It appears that she is a member of “a community” which isn’t exactly known for speaking the King’s English.

  5. When I was in college I had an Atari 8-bit computer. I used it to type up papers for people, $1 a page. I was often floored by what I attempted to type out. People had no concept of basic grammar and sentence structure, let alone how get their thoughts down on paper. Most of the “scholars” were expecting me to just do their assignment for them. One handed me his notebook with the instructions of “just go through and make up something.” That was basically the last straw and the end of the entrepreneurial endeavors for a few decades.

    Normally I’d be telling Eric to cut Tia some slack, she (assumed gender…🙄) is a stupid college student (I mean, diamond in the rough) and some instructor will take pity and actually teach her the basics of communicating in English. But my guess is the last one to try that was hauled before the kangaroo court that is the DE&I board and allowed the opportunity to struggle. Nothing like risking your cushy tenure job by having some damn kid complain over hurty feelings. So language takes another step toward gibberish.

    Orwell is laughing.

    • Hi RK,

      I’d be sympathetic… and cut Tia some slack… if she were a high school kid and interested in learning how to construct a coherent sentence. But she is in college – studying journalism – and hasn’t yet mastered basic grammar and sentence structure. Imagine an engineering student – in college – in need of remedial math instruction – lecturing people about engineering.

      It’s as embarrassing as it is dangerous. People like her think they are qualified to do that which they can’t – and do it with arrogant incompetence. She will make a fine government bureaucrat.

      • My guess is that the majority of STEM inspired comp sci majors fall into the “engineer who cannot do math” category. I could have been a programmer, I did a fair bit of hacking in high school, instead of my algebra homework. There’s no way I would have gotten into a computer department though. Today I bet anyone can get in, even though they would be better served with ITT Tech or the modern equivalent.

  6. Keep in mind that aspiring journalists first need a little guidance and inspiration. And inspiration has become a difficult thing to find during these days when a few companies own all the media, and the same script might be read over hundreds of TV “News” casts in the same day.

  7. Reading this article kinda caused me to feel a teeny tiny smidgen bad about my crappy goobermint school learnt English skills.
    Then, I started thinking about how, for some of you, this bit about the journalist student was perhaps quite like what I experience when I watch a teenager’s reactions when I reply, “paper, please”. After I get a splash of the, ‘deer in the headlights look’ in response, I am amazed at how difficult it is (adapt to?) for some young people these days to put items in a paper bag, i.e. heavy stuff on the bottom, eggs & bread on top, put more than one item in per bag. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera!

    Psft! I’m going back outside.

  8. Dictionaries be raciss! All that black ink doing all the work, while those white pages just lay there doing nuffin!

    This student who refers to itself by the feminine pronoun is doing a very poor job of cultural appropriation! (I’m starting to sound like Brandonjin).

    Ahh….remember the days when the papers of all cities had real journalists who could not only write, but who could write about their own observations and findings of actual investigations they conducted? -As opposed to today’s recyclers of whatever comes over the AP wire……

  9. Google shows that Tia Laury has more melanin than most. This could be, I hope, an affirmative action instance. I don’t which alternative is preferred.Scary.

  10. The stringing together of coherent sentences with correct grammar and usage is troubling but only a secondary issue. The main issue is the mass delusion. I have never heard anyone outside this board ever say anything but “the virus did thus and such.” I routinely correct people that the gov’t did all those things, not any sickness. They often hesitate, go blank, and nod politely as if not to upset what THEY see as the crazy person. These people are either stupid, lying to themselves or complicit or possibly all three.

    • Hi Anon,

      Indeed; it’s precisely why it is so important to correct them – nicely – when they say such things. It may seem like you’re whispering into a hurricane gale – but only at first. Keep at it. Persistence is resistance. If we don’t stop, they won’t win.

  11. A point you missed Eric is that the University of Missouri, which is the MU referenced, is considered one of the top journalism schools in the nation. So this is one of the “best and brightest”.

  12. ‘no face-to face-interactions, which will falter their success in college’ — Tia Laury, U of Missouri

    What was that boring stuff about transitive and intransitive verbs that her grammar school teacher used to drone on about? Young Tia must have been high that day.

    All your syntax are belong to us!

  13. Eric – its almost as if all of the english language is being changed in a systematic way, to change the way we think. I see it in my kids, how they are being taught things and words. For example, this thing about these restrictions because of the rona. My kids keep saying “its because of the virus”. I always correct them – no its because of the government, the virus is the reason (explaining the virus didnt make planes stop flying or shops closed – the government mandated it, many like us would still happily shop or travel).

    Also, the other day, the children had a session at school called “fun facts”. one of those “facts” was how by 2050 some horrible thing or the other would happen to the oceans (i think more plastic than fisH). I asked them – how is this a “fact” because its in the future? They didnt know, but I explained to them that a “fact” is something that its there and can basically be proved. And i told her to ask her teacher how that is a fact…. and this is the kind of discussion before you get to the crap on climate change “science”.

    but as you can see – the whole use of language is being changed it seems.

      • I’ve had little instruction in writing. What I’ve learned comes from reading, a lot. Fortunately, there is still an abundance of writing around that DOES demonstrate good writing skills, Eric’s among them.

      • Right with you, Eric.

        When I was in college, I LOVED the library. The science library, to be more precise. I would spend hours finding books, learning what they had to say on my chosen subject and citing them in my lab reports.

        Also just exploring, for the hell of it.

        Russian fuel-cell research? Wonder what THEY learned?! Building the first ammonia “MASER”? Yes, please! Millions of books and such an incomprehensible depth of knowledge awaited me everyday.

        Most students used the library as a place to study, and did their research through “Goo-Goul”. I’m guessing love for the library and books, such as I had, has only further waned, to be a vanishing rarity, with the library being a mere vestige, and simply a place to meet with WiFi.

        • BaDnOn –

          can totally relate. When I was a kid we used to spend so much time at the library. Today you can hardly find any good science or any non fiction books at the library, especially in the children’s section. Nor do you even find the old classics. Its mostly david Williams sort of books – ok fine its a book, but you cant imagine how sub par it is, with mostly toilet humour for kids. Dont get me wrong – I was into my share of dirty jokes, but its almost as if this is whats replacing proper english literature in the minds of children…

        • Libraries started walling off the good stuff years and years ago. The instance in my experience I believe was due to theft. There was a treasure trove in the university library of hard copy magazines going back to the 1890s. It had been moved from building to building before landing in that dark lower level corner sometime in the mid 1960s. Never reduced to microfilm and discarded. Issues bound together in hardback.

          I read, touching the documents with my own hands, articles from dawn of the automotive age. The smell and feel was very much a part of it. I used to go through old microfilm for some things but it wasn’t the same.

          My last time in there free of supervision I noticed some items were missing. I still hope the tomes were merely elsewhere. It was walled off and locked shortly thereafter. I’ve only been in there once or twice since on alumni tours when it was open for the special day. Of course it was supervised so I couldn’t just go into the shelves and pull stuff down at random and read it like I did.

      • That sent me down a logan’s run rabbit hole, where I found something useful:

        “Input contrary to Established Fact”

        That’s the nature of things now.

  14. The young aspiring journalist has learned well – her key to success is not clever, accurate, well-researched prose, but rather discerning the party line. The presentation doesn’t matter any more – the propaganda is all that counts.

  15. Media lies and fabrications have been going on ever since there were “journalists” (I use that term loosely). The difference today, is that “professional journalism” is now blatantly showing its liberal communistic bias.
    From “Remember the Maine” in the Spanish-American war (actually a powder magazine explosion–not an attack) to walter duranty’s extolling the “virtues” of communism while one of the greatest artificially-engineered (by communists)famines in the Ukraine was taking place, in order to force the “collectivization” of privately-held farms, to walter cronkite outright lying about the American military’s effectiveness during the 1968 Vietnam “Tet offensive” (in which much enemy life was lost) journalism has always been a “nasty craft”. In cronkite’s case, the North Vietnamese were ready to settle (and capitulate) until cronkite’s lies about the supposed American “defeat” were publicized. Cronkite’s lies gave the North Vietnamese new resolve, as they realized that they had the American “news media” on their side. There has always been a certain sympathy for communism and totalitarianism in the so-called “mainstream media”. All one has to do is to look at the journalists fawning over Cuba’s Fidel Castro and how wonderful life is in that communist “paradise”.
    Journalists HATE the internet because it exposes their “profession” for what it really is…with the internet, anyone can be a true journalist. This is why the same “mainstream media” is calling for the “licensing” of journalists–something that would have been unheard of (and treasonous) in previous decades…
    Professional journalism is its own worst enemy…

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