When I was in j-school, I did a lot of stories that the mainstream press would have considered a get.
I interviewed Julian Fantino, who was then the media elusive Police Chief in London, Ontario. I interviewed Peter C. Newman when his book The Canadian Revolution was released. I interviewed various local editors, and broadcast personalities and executives after the Quebec referendum.
I also interviewed a teenaged female boxer, and a woman who ran a cigar shop. I interviewed Richard Comely, creator of Captain Canuck as well as other Canadian comic book creators before it was posh to do so.
I interviewed members of the city's race relation's committee who were not happy about how the city was handling its relationship with various ethnic groups and the wife of a man in a high-profile court case who was accused of shooting at the tires of a getaway car filled with a bunch of teens who made it a habit of breaking into his store.
I am sure if I went back to my old boxes and looked at my other assignments, there would be other gems I have forgotten, but those are the ones I remember the best. There was my sentimental favourite of a horseback riding trainer who I interviewed right after Christopher Reeve's fateful riding accident.
I had no problem doing the legwork and letting people do the talking. That was my focus, and I was doing it while writing a column in the Hamilton Spectator.
And also while I was doing my Method Research.
I did my essays on hoaxes that made the news, crisis communications, war propaganda, and anything I needed to research about the reality of journalism. Nothing I did went to waste. The essays and thesis on crisis communications were the beginnings of my first book Don't Believe It!: How lies become news.
In fact, many of the articles and case studies were obtained while I was earning my Masters degree in journalism.
That year the university library got LexisNexis -- and at the time (1995), student could use it with no cap and could print off anything from it without charge.
I spent all my free time on it, reading articles and court cases for hours. I had a lot of academic articles I photocopied from McMaster when I was getting my B.A. in psychology, and I estimate that I read about 70,000 articles during my four years. I devoured articles from more than just psychology. I used to make my schedule in such a way that I could spend hours at various campus libraries for the express purpose of understanding more than just the content of research, but its structure.
What were the inherent assumptions articles were making? What evidence was out there to support that the structure chosen was better than the gold standard?
In journalism, there was the unspoken Gold Standard -- the Patriarchal with an Inverted Pyramid Style. The Inverted Pyramid was falling out of a favour, but not the Patriarchal. It sounds authoritative, but there is no research out there to support that this is the best way to disseminate information.
Narratives are assumed to be necessary, but again, no evidence backing up that contention.
And I always found that to be very odd.
You have a structure everyone just takes for granted. They do not test it, tinker with it, see how far it goes, or compare it to some other structure.
The lack of empirical methods in the profession was as surprising as j-school profs not conducting studies and research on the most basic of the profession's truisms.
If you want to know why journalism failed, you have to look at more than just the profession -- but also the laziness and reactionary ways of universities and colleges who just gave the profession a free pass, and are still allowing that inertness to infect their j-schools.
And it is not acceptable. It is scandalous...