TOWN CRYER TECHNOLOGY
Print Media – Class 7 – Middle Lesson
“Why have you got that picture on the wall?” asked one of the Class 7 children, a small, Aboriginal girl named Alana, of the newspaper Editor on the Print Media excursion.
“That’s St. John,” he answered “Patron Saint of Writers. Sometimes in the hurley-burley of a busy press office, it helps to reflect on the calm, cerebral saint, sitting in his cave (of the head). Writers often need recourse to their inner world; if they’re going to pen anything decent!
Mind you, most newspaper writing is mere reporting where the aim is accuracy rather than literary flair. The latter tends to be the journalist’s area of expertise. A good reporter is one who can find a good story, not necessarily write it – with journalism it’s often the opposite, good journos can write informative or entertaining pieces on anything from shoelaces to Shotguns! Ha, ha, ha.
In both reporters and journalists, we have 3 different kinds: Staff Writers – these are on regular full-time wages and conditions. Then there are specialist correspondents – again regular, but not having enough work to warrant full employment – like our Theatre Reviewer!
Finally we have freelance writers; including all those hopefuls out there who submit unsolicited manuscripts (or discs) for publication. We do use a fair bit of freelance material, much of it better than our oft-jaded and/or overworked staff or specialists come up with. A lot of freelance writing is actually commissioned by us though, usually from experts in their fields.”
“I had an article published a couple of years ago;” said Alana, her dark eyes shining “it was in a nature magazine – I wrote about dolphins. I want to be a repor…I mean journalist when I grow up.”
The Class 7 teacher smiled at the happy banter which followed between the good-natured – and time-generous! – Editor and the 13-year-olds. He was sitting in the large, comfy Editor’s swivel chair actually, and might be thought to be day-dreaming, but his mind was on higher things: like the 3-week Print Media unit being programmed in the Written Expression strand of the Literary stream – ‘thinking is ego’. John is the self-conscious or ‘thinking=ego’ representative of the 4 gospellers. And on thinking, Class 7 is, in the Educational Zodiac, the Capricorn year – ‘putting thought out into the world’!
Nobody ‘puts thought out into the world’ better than the print media; not that all the thoughts they so energetically publish are noble, wholesome or true even – but that is their primary charter nevertheless. Perhaps the industry should be more aware of another Zodiac factor, that which inspires the Language arts altogether, Ammon the Ram – to us the Greek epithet of Aries.
Yet again we see ‘head’ dominance, in the understanding of both Steiner and conventional astrology, we find the region of the human being in which these Aries forces reside is the skull – the ‘cave’. But with Aries it is redeemed by, in Rudolf Steiner’s assessment anyway, the ‘philosophy’, or aspect of Ego of Aries being ‘Idealism’. Yes, still thinking, but idealistic thought.
Alas how often in pragmatism placed before idealism in the selection of stories and news items in the press. “Not with this Editor it seems.” Thought the teacher “Mind you, Aries Idealism is tempered with its zodiacal complement on the other side of the circle, Libra Realism! This Idealism/Realism keeps things in balance one might say!
The nominal quality The Doctor ascribes to Joshua (to use the Hebrew zodiacal understanding!) is ‘Event’… “You see children.” Continued the Editor “as well as being able to write, newspaper folk also must have a feeling for that mysterious quality of event in the world. They should have a nose to know if an incident might evolve into a true event or not – to be on the spot when things happen – or are about to happen. And they must be able to tell when they’ll be just wasting their time and our money hanging around non-events!
The blindness to the events occurring around one we call the Goggle Oggle factor – ha, ha. He’s the kind of goofy guy who, if a meteor landed beside him, he’d be looking the other way.” The children cackled away merrily at this “Everyone needs events in their lives, if for no other reason than to incrementally mark off the endless march of time – that’s why most cultures have festivals and the like.”
The teacher thought about the vital ‘event’ role seasonal festivals played in the school, giving a regular excitement (Aries) dimension to the year. “Indeed, a child is considered deprived if it is not permitted to partake in scheduled events, like this outing for instance!
Poor little Richard, his dad won’t let him travel in the school bus, as he thinks it unsafe. What is unsafe is Richard’s psychic health! Maybe I’ll arrange a defacto ‘event’ just for him when we get back – he can play Editor in a role play about a newspaper office. Richard’s response to his deprivation, being a melancholic, will be unhappiness – depression even – the play should brighten him up!”
“Sword-wielding Mars lives in the House of Aries, the Ram of course, in the exposition of the 12 senses, being the sense of word – Language.” Thought the teacher, so was somewhat surprised when the Editor took up the tale. “These days the pen is indeed mightier than the sword – but maybe we should pronounce that word in the truer sense s-word – the word is mightier than the s-word!
Whatever, you children must realize that you wield a mighty weapon when you write; especially when that writing is published. Although the Print Media has a temporary life – today’s news is tomorrow’s fish ‘n’ chip paper – ha, ha, ha, it still has enormous power to influence ‘events’ and public opinion.
So a deep responsibility should accompany any material published Book publishing (not included in this middle lesson unit – Author.) has in contrast an almost frightening permanence. A book one writes today will almost certainly be read – somewhere by someone – long after the author is dead. (eek?!) The responsibility increases therefore with the work’s predicted longevity.
But I don’t want you to think that the only people that count in the print media are the pen smiths. They are of course the front line; but there are a host of support skills, like photographers, artists, printers, marketing, distribution.
! Maybe a class assignment might be to create and draw a cartoon? What do you think teacher?
I would consider it almost an imperative for the class to produce a single-edition magazine or news sheet as tangible evidence of skills learnt in this lesson. Some of you shutterbugs might even have one of your better shots published. Maybe I could give you some lessons on our bromide camera; this reduces your tone photos to screen prints for black & white reproduction.
In experiential terms, I also think it a great idea, following the lead of little – what’s your name dear? … Alana … for each child to write an article and submit it, seriously, for publication in a newspaper or magazine (the two main print media strands of this unit). Here you will learn about manuscript presentation: double-spaced typing; 4cm left margin; copyright statement; self-addressed and stamped return envelope – and so on.
Mind you, a lot of publishers only accept material on word-processor disc these days; but still a hard copy MS should accompany it for easy reading for the features editor…um, always try to find out who the piece should go to – news desk, good living, sports editor …whoever. Youi might even illustrate the article by supplying photos or, if in color, slides.”
“That’s the way you get published.” Said the Editor. Alana looked wistful at the idea of a career where editors, like this nice one, were clamoring for her material, but she soon snapped out of it when he continued “Not likely though, there are mountains of rejection slips out there! Ha, Ha ha. Sorry dear, did I say something wrong?”
Another good exercise – for the whole class this time – is to compile a glossary on the publishing industry. One can learn so much from just the terms we use, the ‘journalese’! There’s: byline; column-centimeter; artwork, advertorial; defamation (I hate that one! Shuddddddder); proof-reading; sub-editor; opinion piece …! I think a lot of discussion could profitably center around things like libel laws, and advertising pressure on paper policy and practice.
Why not analyze a magazine regarding its priorities of news, features, and advertising? How often do they position a beer ad next to a horror story on drink driving?! This compositional format is really worth looking at, as is the style. The heavy, cerebral tone of a science mag contrasts with the zany style and language of, say, a surfing magazine.
Magazines, and especially newspapers, can be very powerful tools indeed, influencing both the community and legislators. In a recent article on power, one writer recently placed the two most important people in the shire as the newspaper editor and mayor, in that order!”
The teacher leaned forward at this, eyes glinting with the prospect of input “A colleague of mine moved the legislators with an article published in this very paper (The Sydney Morning Herald). In response to a leaflet distributed to all schools in the State re. the problem of young people succumbing to the blandishments of tobacco, he wrote that, not only should all schools be non-smoking zones (as ours is!) but that no teacher should be a smoker at all!
This caused a frenzied media response – ‘Aahh, controversy!’ they sniffed; in this case, of teachers rights over children’s well-being, with the ‘smoking teachers are hypocrites’ argument winning the points.
The Education Department, afraid of the wrath of the teachers Union, dismissed the issue. The Union protested loudly until…yes, their own members – both smokers and non! – voted overwhelmingly that they would prefer, if not the absolute proscription on teachers as smokers, at least the no-smoke ruling in schools.
In a short time, when the law-makers became aware of the wave of both public and professional support for the move, legislated for just this. Staffrooms all over the State, in public schools at least, smell like be-flowered meadows rather than … well, rather than how your newsroom smells!”
“What? Oh yes – er, print media folk do smoke a lot, it um – what was I saying? – tobacco helps focus thought so we’re told – cough – cough!! But there’s no excuse for you children to smoke mind!
Another area of class discussion could be about journalists protecting their sources – or would that be sauces, we drink a lot too you know! Ha, ha – cough. In some heroic cases reporters have even been sent to jail for not breaking confidentiality with their informants.
This leads us to one of the most vital areas of this industry, Research; every journo needs research skills, even to find out what other media exists in this country.” The Editor lifted down a weighty tome with the title ‘Print Media Guide’.
“This has listed in it almost every newspaper and magazine in Australia, as you can see (flip – flip). There are literally 1000s of them. The hundred or so you see in the newsagents are a mere popular sampling. Virtually every industry has its specialized magazine; some companies are so large, they have their own in-house periodicals, like the major airlines. These sources can be very lucrative for freelance writers; but the only way to find this legion of obscure publications is through a guide such as this one. Remember, in this game, knowledge is not only power – it can lead to career success.
A brief history of the newspaper/magazine culture, easily found in any library, is of interest to you mind-healthy 13-year-olds. It really began with the smoke signals of the Indians – or would you start with the hand-written notices nailed to the church door, as Luther did – or the Town Cryer perhaps?!
Whatever, it is a far cry – so to speak – from the giant complex you will be shown round today. Indeed the history, or more correctly the technological revolution, is proceeding faster than a speeding printing press – ha, ha. So much so that it’s hard to keep up; especially for the word-smith; no computer can go out and dig up a good expose – no word-processor can create an elegant human-interest piece. Only the human being, the John Being indeed, can do these things.”
The Teacher interrupted the Editor’s lofty diatribe “Tell them about some of those sources, or resources, where they can ‘dig up’ information; like council files; historical societies; Old People.” (Note the capitals to emphasize their importance as living treasuries of knowledge!).
Then there’s the police; churches; cemeteries; newspapers indeed – your archives are time capsules of the most detailed kind; government offices; company records; libraries; real estate files – and the long-term agents themselves.
“Thanks for that,” said the Editor without sincerity “in fact I would have listed all those research areas myself – but seeing as we’re swapping jobs, I can now tell you yours. How about a class exercise testing the FOI legislation (Freedom of Information) by asking a government department to open its files on some sensitive issue, say logging of old growth forests?!
Another fun thing to do is for each child to be given a task of finding a specific piece of information – just like a reporter has to do – or a detective even. One young researcher may have to discover who the original owners were of the local – historic – hotel. Another might have to tell us who the Federal Members were of the school’s electorate during the 1940s and ‘50s. Not only should the children provide the information, but describe how they found the goods.
Another interesting exercise is to research, as far as possible, one’s own genealogy. This can be done simply by questioning family members (especially grandparents – see ‘old people’ above!), or venture into the arcane world of the genealogist. Whatever, the child will know more about him/herself after the exercise than before – this is real ‘Know Thyself’ education – roots are important you know.
“thank you; I suppose another information segment is the broad description of the main elements of the newspaper and magazine worlds.” The Teacher rose and began pacing the office as his host – and his class – looked on curiously.
“There are all kinds of newspapers, hopefully many of these can be brought into the classroom. Let’s see: daily; weekly; global; national; state; city; regional; special-interest (like a health tabloid).
In magazines there are so many more different kinds: women’s; fashion; ‘adult’; hobbies; literary; political; religious; current affairs!! In fact I think I’ll make a list and ask the children to write them down in order of their priority. This is a good ‘self-consciousness’ activity as well. To her surprise, the sport-mad girl might still prefer to read magazines on science – or the clever boy may put quality comics – another kind of magazine – at the top of his list!”
The Editor returned to his paper-strewn desk as a gesture that the interview as over – he frowned. “Teaching sounds a lot more fun than producing a daily broadsheet? Maybe it’s time for a career change – er, how much are teachers paid these days?”
So ends Class 7 – and the whole of Primary – Language; it is customary at the end of the year for the Class Teacher to write a comprehensive report on the whole 7 hears for the child to take across the vestibule of high school, and thence into life. The following is a selection of excerpts from one of these Primary Reports: