Judging newspaper entries this spring, I noticed a distinct lack of unsigned staff editorials. In some cases this seemed to be mirrored by a lack of depth or extended feature reporting.
If there were editorials, a significant number were not calls to action or statements of leadership on events or issues.
In other words, the leadership function seemed to be either distinctly limited or completely lacking.
Leadership can come from reporting or through editorial statements. When either seems to be missing, we have to ask why:
• Is it censorship or fear of censorship that limits substantive or thorough reporting and editorials?
• Is it because columns offer more “name” recognition? Are news and substantive reporting not in vogue?
• Is it the belief editorials are passé and have no real power to sway, that depth and extended reporting is not popular in a culture of affirmation?
• Is it inexperienced advisers who don’t fully understand the leadership role of student media?
• Is it some other reason?
• Is it worth our concern?
I hope someone can shed some light on what seems to be a lack of editorials and a lack of issues reporting.
In 1947 the Hutchins Commission report called for more investigative reporting (remember studying the media’s performance in the early McCarthy era) and more social responsibility, reporting that went beyond the surface.
Some journalists refer to reporting beyond the surface as the candle theory of journalism — bringing light. Surface reporting exhibited in the McCarthy era might be termed the mirror theory of journalism — reporting what we see in front of us.
Perhaps we need to find out why editorials and the resulting editorial leadership seem to be missing, why reporting beyond surface events seems to be absent or at least on the decline.
It might be time to reinvigorate the Hutchins movement and apply it to scholastic media. It’s a time of change in media as print seemingly fades and digital media explodes, especially at the scholastic levels. (See Part 2 for a look at the models we might be creating)
After all, even mirrors require some light to be effectively useful.read more