Last year I was named one of America’s “Top 50 Journalism Professors” of the year, and I’ve finally decided to share that link with my students as an end-of-semester exercise in critical thinking, while we talk about the differences between journalism in print, on the air and on the Web.
After class — or after next week’s final exams, or after I clean out my office the week after that — I may come back to this page and add a few paragraphs to explain why I’m taking at least a semester or two off from teaching.
(I am also making jokes about going to a tractor-trailer driving school so that I can declare myself “semi-retired.” If I come up with better jokes, I may add them to this page, too — or at least delete that one.)
I was very pleased that a good number of students in my intro news writing class came up with appropriate “critical thinking” questions about that site — in particular, two questions they should ask any news source:
- Who are you? (In this case, who runs the website, who pays the bills, and what is the site’s real purpose?)
- How do you know that? (In this case, what are the criteria for the top-50 list and how was it assembled?)
In addition to “interrogating” the Web pages themselves, reading the “Home” and “About” pages, I suggested students try the zip-code search to find interesting journalism schools. Surprise! Almost all the results were for for-profit schools or online-only programs. Nowhere was there any link to the major accrediting or research associations in journalism education (ACEJMC and AEJMC), and the search never turned up schools at which the “Top 50″ professors teach.
Things are looking up in the “recent examples” department for my fall course on the portrayal of journalists in popular culture.
HBO’s famous-writers docudrama about Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway reminds me a bit of United Press’s “Soldiers of the Press” radio series from the 1940s, which had actors in a studio dramatizing the lives of war correspondents while the reporters were still off on the battle-fronts.
Since Memorial Day I’ve been working my way through a batch of those World War II episodes over at jheroes: Newspaper Heroes on the Air, learning a little history, thinking about the blurred boundaries between reporting and propaganda, and puzzling through a mystery or two along the way.
I hope that when the fall semester starts, students will be able to get at the HBO Hemingway & Gellhorn film to do the same. Maybe I can convince one or two in my Portrayal of the Journalist in Popular Culture course to do research projects drawing some comparisons between docudrama and history, film and radio, or between an HBO movie and the new HBO series, The Newsroom.
Thanks to HBO for putting the full first episode on YouTube for students (and faculty) who don’t have HBO in their back-to-school budgets! Alas, HBO only kept it there temporarily… This was the link.
HBO now (August) provides a The Newsroom website with supplementary information and synopses of episodes.
I started this blog post to gradually accumulate links to reviews and reflections on the two HBO offerings. Some I’ll just tag in my bookmark collection at http://delicious.com/bstepno
Updated Aug. 30, 2012
Posted in biography, History, jheroes, Journalism, popular culture, students, Television
Tagged biography, hbo, jheroes, journalists, journofilm, jpop, tv