Can We Handle Independence If It's Not Entertaining?

I don't watch TV, so it's always a shock when I head to my parent's house where it's blazing something or other from the first pot of coffee to the midnight pb&j. My Dad likes the news shows, so unless we can convince him to turn it off there's always a couple of guys yelling at each other for a few hours in the evening.

I don't know when this started to pass for journalism, but I have an inkling it's around the time that entertainment started to attract more viewers than serious news reporting. Obvious solution to execs concerned with their bottom line? Entertaining news, of course. And that's when Americans started to get dumber (yes, I know dumber isn't a real word, it just sounds better) - or, more kindly put, less informed.

What then are we to do? Well, you can start by watching this video. Dan Rather has some good ideas. And if my word isn't enough to tempt you, it's for the sake of independence and freedom. Do it for your country.


  1. Penny,

    This was a great video. Thanks for posting it.

    I've been thinking a lot about the role of the media as you and I (and so many others) have contemplated the mission of the Writers Collective. Rather's comments cut right to the heart of some of my thoughts.

    He talked about the shallow coverage of the crisis in Georgia. Can the Writers Collective assume the intelligence of its readership, embrace complexity, and give writers the space they need to explore vital issues of the day?

    Rather talked about the vital connection between the press and democracy. Can the Writers Collective be a place where smart, passionate, and good-hearted people from all across the political and theological spectra - and from all walks of life - can come together to engage in vigorous and productive conversation? Like the line in the "West Wing": "We're going to raise the level of public discourse in this country, and let that be our legacy." Can we give the benefit of the doubt to people who think different than us?

    Rather also talked about the way powerful interests can exert pressure to keep certain stories from being told. Can the Writers Collective be a place where precisely those kinds of stories are told, especially the stories of the least powerful?

    Obviously I think the Writers Collective can be such a place. But it's a long road ahead. The work done by you and Jordan and so many others the last four years has been remarkable. Thanks for allowing me to take the next leg of the journey with you.

    And thanks for posting the video.

  2. Fantastic questions John. I wonder about this as well. I want Burnside to be a place where independence, complexity, and "journalistic integrity" find a home. And I think it can, but I'm concerned about the polarity in this country, particularly around religious and political issues, and the tendency to label and dismiss magazines/people/causes that don't fit our personal paradigm.

    For example, I often want to write articles that are more incisive and nuanced than the (interesting and important) personal reflections that have become vogue in the social justice section in particular. But I fear that like my article discussing Israel/Palestine a few (last?) years ago, it will just become a hotbed for soapboxing differing views.

    So, I am hopeful that we can be a place where people from all walks of life - and worldviews - can have a productive, respectful dialogue, but I am sadly a little cynical.

    And thanks for the 'shout out.' It's been an immense pleasure to work here at the Collective, and I am so grateful for the readers and writers I've met through it. Like you (well, you're pretty exceptional in this regard, I think) they are committed to its integrity and longevity. How rare is that?

    How do you think we can bridge the divide and avoid being labelled and dismissed?

  3. One more thing: I realize that I gave the wrong impression when I was talking about our regular content at BWC. I love the pieces that go up at BWC and am constantly impressed with the level of writing, and people's willingness to tackle tough subjects. Instead of saying I want "MORE incisive and nuanced," pieces, what I really meant is that I don't want us to get stuck in a rut of ONLY doing personal reflection pieces, and I fear the reason that we do that is because I am afraid to take scary steps of speaking out on controversial issues.

    It's really my responsibility to invite people to provide balanced pieces that speak out of love "for justice sake." We do need to take a stand, we just need to do so in a balanced way that invites dialogue.