Journalism Isn’t Dead

Lauren Salzman Co-Editor-In-Chief   Each year, I have Thanksgiving dinner at the house of a journalist. This most recent Thanksgiving, her sister, also a journalist, joined us. For the past two years, a graduate student from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism has shadowed our basketball team, asking questions and taking notes during every practice. Having written for The Forum for almost three years now, I’ve chosen to surround myself with the written word. So when people tell me that journalism is a lost art, road kill on the highway of news, I am inclined not to believe them. In terms of prestige, maybe journalism is dying, but as Robert Strauss said when he visited Latin a few weeks ago, “Prestige is not what should drive your process.” With more than 1000 bylines for the New York Times, Robert Strauss has an impressive resume – he wrote for Sports Illustrated, Philadelphia Daily News, The Washington Post, and many other highly regarded publications. He recently published a book titled, Worst. President. Ever. Strauss visited the Latin Forum staff and a few history classes this November, and got many chuckles and surprised looks when he talked about his book. James Buchanan, arguably the worst president ever, fascinated Strauss ever since he was a young child. When speaking to my history class, he remarked that his father had influenced him to become interested in presidents. Now a father of two, he proudly held up his presidential figurines that replaced his action figures as a child, most of which outdated everyone in the room. “[So many books have been written about the best,]” noted Strauss, “[so why not write about the worst.]” “What question would you ask Barack Obama if you could interview him tomorrow?” was Strauss’ opening question to the audience.  Everyone in attendance looked around, mumbling questions of policy and change. Then, Strauss remarked that “[his] view of life is very skewed.” He said he would ask the President when the last time he scolded Malia and Sasha was. Every journalist is going to ask him the same exact questions, so what can you ask that sets you apart from everyone else? I see this method recur when peering over the basketball team’s journalist’s notepad. Instead of focusing on points scored, or the number of assists, she wrote down that Maggie has a dog walker for her very old, sick dog. She scribbled that Danielle and Jade were helping each other learn how to work their calculators, and that Alex and Sophie were comparing notes on which flavor Cliff Bar they most enjoyed. While statistics are important and data speaks, journalism is rooted in personal stories. At Thanksgiving, Sarah Fiedelholtz, sister of the host, told me that all you have to do is ask the right question and then people just open up. Everyone loves to talk about themselves, and there’s something special in being a conduit for the process. To close the meeting, Strauss said that he had one student who went on to write copy for the restaurant Shake Shack. I doubt that was the job the student had envisioned for himself when he decided to become a journalist, but writing is writing. So while newspapers’ online platforms are growing and subscription rates are dropping, I still have faith that journalism will prevail. Its forms may change, but it will always have a place, and Robert Strauss solidified that idea for me. ]]>