Monday, November 29, 2010

The Stories Behind the Stories

Last Monday I attended a talk in McGuire Hall that looked very interesting to me. The speaker’s name was Mark Bowden and his lecture was called “Stories Behind the Stories”. As Mark introduced himself he told us that he graduated from Loyola University in 1973. We were also informed that he was the author of the book Black Hawk Down and many other published works. His very intriguing lecture was all about journalism and the way that it has changed over time.

Mark began by telling us about his days at Loyola University as the editor of the school newspaper, the Greyhound. When he began working with the newspaper his freshman year, he noticed that he was the only freshman in affiliation with the Greyhound. Most of the other students were upperclassmen so when they graduated he was basically the only one left running the newspaper. He told us that the year in which he was the editor, was the worst year for the Greyhound newspaper. Nevertheless, he continued to write articles and eventually majored in English.

Next, he began to talk about they ways in which journalism has changed over time. One statement he made about journalism was that “with the new technology available today much is gained and much is lost”. Obviously with the creation of the Internet comes the ability to publish stories online that the whole world can view. You can send your stories to other people in a matter of seconds which was something he was never able to do when he first started working. However, there have also been bad changes in journalism over time. The old fashioned way of going out and actually observing the things you are writing about is much less common than it used to be. Mark then told us about many different stories he wrote about and how he always went out and viewed the subjects of his stories. Unfortunately, many writers today use what he calls “armchair journalism”. These writers choose not to go out and view the subjects of their stories as Mark does. Instead they take pieces of information that they hear from other sources and use that in their stories. This leads to false information being spread on many occasions which leads to people being misinformed all over the world.

I found the lecture “Stories Behind the Stories” to be relatable to the first half of “The Twelfth Night” by William Shakespeare. Both deal with the concept of misinformation. Much like readers can be misled from false information, the characters in the play are being misled by the identity of Viola. The Duke of Orsino and Lady Olivia believe Viola to be a man named Cesario as that is what she is disguised as. The Duke is in love with Lady Olivia and wants Viola or “Cesario” to serve as a messenger of his love to her. At the same time Lady Olivia falls in love with this messenger who she believes to be a man. To make it a complete love triangle, Viola falls in love with the Duke of Orsino who believes her to be a man. All of this deals with the idea of misinformation which was what Mark Bowden’s lecture “Stories Behind the Stories” was condemning.

The most surprising thing I learned this semester came from the last event that I attended. Mark Bowden’s lecture on journalism opened my eyes to an injustice that is occurring daily. People are writing stories without actually going out into the world and viewing them. As a reader, it is easy to believe these stories when in fact they are not true. Whenever I read an article online I would never think twice that it could be something that wasn’t entirely true. I mean if it is being published on a site where the whole world can access it why wouldn’t it be? The lecture taught me to be more careful whenever I read articles online. I learned of the injustice that the perpetrators of “armchair journalism” are committing that I had never knew before. As Mark Bowden said, “the best stories are ones that the writers have actually gone out and have been a part of”.

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