Thursday, November 01, 2007


It's been about two months since I started teaching at Concordia. It's a wonderful place and we're building the best journalism program in the country. Our university already has Canada's pre-eminent Communications department. I had several talks with people in Montreal today about my decision to teach journalism. Why not History, since that's the area of my PhD studies?
I had several reasons, and all of them still hold. I want to teach people in their majors. History profs don't get to do that. Most of their classes are big survey courses that are electives for students majoring in other subjects. At worst, they teach courses to totally disinterested engineering and science students who must have an arts credit to graduate. I'm teaching classes of about 25 students each, all of whom -- at this point, anyway -- want to be involved in some aspect of journalism.
And if you want to change journalism, go to where the young journalists are. The business has problems. Some are economic. Others involve a certain watering down of ethics and a return to a politicized press. I don't tell the kids to be objective, but I do ask them to be fair. And I think it's great that I'm being paid to tell journalists at a very formative time in their lives to think about fairness.
All of my students are great kids, and I can look around the room and see people I know will be important, skilled players in Canadian journalism or solid reporters and editors in small communities. They've taken a leap of faith that there will be jobs but anyone who's been in a Canadian newsroom lately has seen the sea of grey hair. The "boom" generation is edging to retirement. We people in the "bust" generation made do with freelancing, and these kids in the "echo" generation have, I really believe, a good chance at a real career.
My colleagues are also great people who've been kind and helpful, showing me generosity when they've been very pinched for time.
Last and not least is Concordia's Loyola campus. It's the old Jesuit college in Notre Dame de Grace. Who wouldn't want to teach here?

Our building's on the left side. It's brand new, with state-of-the art computer, radio, and TV labs. The new buildings -- there is also a large science complex -- are designed to fit into the Tudor complex without ruining it, the way so many campuses were uglified in the 1970s with brutalist architecture.
So that's how the job stands, without breaking any confidentiality. Suffice to say, though, the kids these days are, for the most part, focused, grounded, curious and many of them show remarkable social conscience without spewing boilerplate rhetoric. I can honestly say if I was an employer I wouldn't be too worried about them washing out. They are very much children of this century. Remember, in 2000 many of them weren't even teenagers. September 11 occured when they were in grade school. They barely remember when Jean Chretien was Prime Minister, vaguely remember Bill Clinton, and Brian Mulroney is someone from the history books. They have never known recession, but they know they live in a time of change: great technological leaps; serious external threats; a constant flux in Quebec politics; and environmental changes that their generation may be stuck with. And they don't seem afraid.
So far, nothing to bitch about. Even VIA Rail has come through 19 out of 20 times, which is an A+.


nomdeblog said...

Good luck with your class. I'm sure they will be better than us old boomers at fixing the world.

Yes, it is a lovely campus, I used to play soccer there decades ago.

I was wondering a couple of things.

When wasn't the press politicized?

So what if it is politicized?

The issues should be that as long as there is full disclosure of the political bias .. so be it. For example the Toronto Star has in its by-laws that it supports Liberals. Wouldn't "fairness" to the reader dictate that bias be disclosed at the top of the front page?

Also why didn't you tell the kids to be "objective" instead of telling them to be "fair"? How can you be fair without being objective?

Actually, I don't believe journalists are without their biases, so I'm not convinced that they can be either fair or objective. Instead, I'd settle for disclosure as to what their biases are.

How would that disclosure be done? For starters, just like a stock-brokerage disclosure .. Answer the question .. .what stock do they hold? ergo who did they vote for last time?

Ottawa Watch said...

By "fair" I mean they must give due weight and respect to the ideas they don't agree with and remember that honest debate is what we're supposed to strive for.