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Today's word on journalism

Friday, May 12, 2006

THE FINAL WORD

PETERSBORO, Utah -- Gloom like a Bulwer-Lyttonesque pall hung heavily over the Cache Valley as word came that the WORD had gone.

"As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire. . . ." No, wait. . . . That's actual Bulwer-Lyttonism. Scratch it.

We conclude, with joy and trumpets and a tankard or two, the 10th season of TODAY'S WORD ON JOURNALISM. What began in 1995 as a professor's strategy to get his students to read email (guess that worked!) now has spread, birdflu-like, far beyond that unwilling audience to self-flagellating WORD volunteers on five-and-a-half continents. But the willing and unwilling alike--the halt and addled and addicted and deluded--will have to get a life and smell the roses, for a while anyway.

Today marks the end of the WORD for this academic season. Even ere the rosy dawn that didth bust o'er this glade, this vale, this happy home. . . . ooops. Avert already, Sir Bulwer, you mangy cur!!!!

See you in the fall. . . TP

Media watchdog needs to snarl on behalf of ordinary folks, Tribune journalist says

By Aaron Falk

April 17, 2006 | When Connie Coyne pulled her car up to that state-run work camp in southern Florida, she knew something wasn't right. Doors had been removed from units where renters were late with the rent and almost every child she saw was covered with sores signifying ring worm.

And then there was the smell.

After talking with the migrant workers who lived at the camp and then making some phone calls to city officials, Coyne discovered the camp was not up to legal standards.

"It took us about a year and it took a lot of reporting," she said. "When it was done, we got that camp knocked down and rebuilt. Who says you can't get something done in this business?"

Coyne, now the reader advocate for The Salt Lake Tribune, spoke to USU students as part of the journalism & communication department's Media & Society lecture series. Her speech, "To Comfort the Afflicted and Afflict the Comfortable," focused on journalism's obligation as "the fourth state" to give a voice to the voiceless.

"We are a check and a balance on big government," she said. "Like any good watchdog, sometimes we have to bear our teeth and snarl."

Coyne said newspapers have become "yuppified," slipping away from the blue-collar work ethic of the previous generations of journalists. Too often, she said, reporters are satisfied to sit in the newsroom and make phone calls to the same city officials.

"The poor, the alcoholic, the disenfranchised, the hooker, whatever we fall into -- those people have no voice," she said. "Those are the people we cannot forget when we are out covering the pretty people."

Coyne related these principles to the recent debate over immigration. She said immigrants have traditionally been a people in this country without a voice, but that's changing.

"You're seeing, in these immigrant protests, history," she said. "We have to speak for the people we say we speak to."

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