Commentary

Make a Pilgrimage, Gain Perspective

I had lost sight of it, plain and simple. What’s made worse is that the world has lost sight of it too, which is why people across the globe say newspapers are dying.

I went to a convention in Washington, D.C. recently and paid homage to the main sights of the National Mall but was mostly unfazed.

It’s not that I’m a “bad American,” the beauty of our country is that we’re free to be as traditionally patriotic, or not, as we want. However, my political ramblings aside, my trip to D.C. was without a doubt life-changing.

The Newseum is bigger, better and more important to society and culture than I ever could have realized before going to it. The building is located on Pennsylvania Avenue, which in my opinion is to remind the government scoundrels they’re being watched.

However, that’s all exterior information considering the heart and soul of the Newseum, as you would hope and expect, lies within.

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Situations surrounding my group’s trip to D.C. had left me frustrated and short on time. We all chose to separate from our group and go at whatever pace we would like. I had a lunch meeting to get to, so my pace was rather quick.

I immediately darted to the sixth floor and began my tour.

There is a glass elevator that carries you to the sixth floor. As it climbs a recording explains what is on each floor. This was the first time I realized the museum was about more than news and media, it was about history in general.

Before arriving at the Newseum, I knew little about what it had to offer. Daily front pages were about the only thing I knew the Newseum was responsible for. I spent some time on the terrace looking out toward the U.S. Capitol Building and eventually headed back inside to continuing my lightning tour.

Level five is where time stopped for me.

It’s a simple concept, really, document news and share it with the public. It’s been done for years, I’ve done it, you’ve done it in one way or another.

Level five, however, did it better than I ever could have dreamed.

This level features actual front pages spanning news events during 500 years. I wasn’t looking at scanned images in textbooks or .pdfs, I was looking at the real deal.

I was in the presence of greatness.

I saw the papers that covered the Chicago fire, the Titanic sinking, the North Pole being found, suffrage being granted, the first National Geographic and the 1929 stock market crash.

I could have spent hours in that room. I wanted to spend hours in that room.

Being that close to newspapers from so long ago that covered such important things sent literal chills down my spine and brought tears to my eyes. Yes, I am that girl.

This is what I had forgotten somewhere in the hustle and bustle of student media, journalism classes and life.

Journalists and truth-seekers have been around for centuries. Nothing can change that. They will continue to be around for centuries. Sure the job market is dismal, but who cares if you get paid? I’m not so naive as to think making a living isn’t important. Believe me, I know it’s important, I have a mountain of student debt and no idea of where or if I will get a job when I finish graduate school.

Everyone can find some way to make a living. We (the collective journalists of the world) can have day jobs and uncover corruption on the side. Several of the issues facing the industry have arise from selfishness in one way or another. Selfish, money-grubbing owners took on more debt than they could handle/pay back and it came back to bite them.

I’m not one to have faith in people, government or much of anything other than myself. However, the only thing I know without question is that information will always be conveyed.

Someone will have to do it, whether it’s a paid journalist or not it will happen. Some citizen journalists call into question the ability of untrained people putting information into the world.

However, everyone is a journalist because everyone tells stories. That is why we’re here, right?
Journalists lost sight of their purpose, which I strongly believe has led us to this point of fighting for our jobs and livelihoods. Journalists have gotten carried away in the little things and forgot to view their job as a truly great way to influence the world. Media will change for the better and for the worse. But so will everything else.

We need to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get busy. There are millions of stories out there that need telling. Who cares if you don’t have a newspaper or TV radio to use, all it takes is communication and curiosity.

I challenge you to truly think about why you wanted to be a journalist and compare that with what you do every day.

Do they match up? Are you treating your job like the unique opportunity it truly is?

I doubt it, but I don’t blame you. I got caught up in the bureaucracy as well. Now more than ever we should try to bring our fire, ambition and even naivety back into the job.

If we don’t start doing that, someone else is going to realize how sweet of an opportunity it is to be a journalist and start doing it better than we have been. Figure out what you originally wanted to accomplish as a journalist and incorporate it into your daily and weekly activities.

It will do the industry good.

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