I’m unsure how to feel about Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications (full disclosure: my grad school alma mater) recent foray into the realm of media awards.
According to Dean David Rubin on MediaBistro.com, the school’s newly created Mirror Awards will “highlight the best media coverage of media … The idea is to hold up a mirror to the media and honor it that way.”
Hey, that’s great. Coming from someone who is not, and financially cannot, make a living doing the very thing she begged, borrowed and practically stole to be able to do — journalism — thanks to the bullshit surrounding the biz, I’m all for it.
From media consolidation to rampant ethical violations run amok, there needs to be a mirror.
I’m just not sure Newhouse is the place to be handing out the accolades.
Or perhaps not Rubin, the man who gave the least compelling commencement speech I unfortunately was forced to witness.
Imagine if you will:
Students from one of the country’s preeminent journalism schools were thrust, trial by fire’like, into the fray in the months following Sept. 11.
The reality of the job, and its inherent risks and responsibilities, became crystal clear that day, and every day for the rest of the semester. The reality of what happened, and the enormous task for those charged with putting it down for everyone to understand, sank in the second we watched the first tower go. None of us would ever be the same.
There was no escaping it, no getting back to life — we were in j-school, where current events are life. We saw the world, and the field we had yet to break into, change before our eyes. The future was tumultuous and uncertain, but we were there, learning to be a part of it.
With this as our educational backdrop, we sat in mid-2002 in the Carrier Dome clad in those ridiculous square hats, ready to take on the world.
So what words of infinite wisdom did Rubin choose to impart to us on that beautiful spring day?
None. His words were not for us but our parents, asking them not to be too upset about the thousands of dollars they’d shelled out for their progeny’s education, because it’s a good school with a good name and it will all work out in the end.
Really. No seriously. I’m not kidding…
Thousands of dollars, countless hours of lost sleep, two bouts of bronchitis, weeks of lectures, Kaplan’s sadistic law class and Ward’s meandering ethics class, several thousand cups of coffee and just as many AP Style Book quizzes later I found myself sitting, dumbstruck, wondering what fucking relevance this had to me. And then I realized: none.
With his eye on the checkbook and completely out of touch with the lives lived just under his carpeted office day in and day out, he — like media companies of today — pandered to the bottom line.
And Rube’s at it again, proving just how outrageously out of touch he is with the very industry he gets paid to, purportedly, understand:
mediabistro.com : What types of media do you consume daily?
Rubin : The New York Times, in print, The Wall Street Journal, in print and online, Syracuse Post Standard, NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered. If I get home in time I’ll watch the CBS evening news — I’m warming up for Katie. Then later I watch MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann — he’s the best writer in broadcasting, very, very entertaining.
mediabistro.com : What about blogs?
Rubin : No. People will send me things and point me to them, but I just don’t have enough time.
mediabistro.com : So no RSS feeds for you?
Rubin : No.
Well goody then. At least I don’t have to worry about sending the dean’s office into a tizzy. And, uh, Katie fucking Couric? I can’t wait to see her take on the hard news of the day. “Massacre in Darfur, he he, Israel and Hezbollah still killling, tee he!”
Unfortunately, his reading list sums it up: old dinosaur media equivalent of a bran muffin and black coffee.
Yes, it’s important to keep up on what these pubs are doing and saying, but if you’re not looking beyond the Gray Lady and NPRs of the world at this point in the game, even just a little, you’ve already been left behind.
So, I’d nominate myself for a Mirror Award if it included criticism of the media peon making machine.
Alas, I can only look in from the outside as I slave on the dark side to make ends meet and pay the student loans Rubin was trying so hard to convince the parents were so important, and playing under the old guard’s nose via RSS feed.