We're all hurt by diminished media

August 6, 2011

John Krull’s [July 25 Forefront] column triggered fond memories of a formative group of mentors.

Krull’s piece lamented the latest round of layoffs at The Indianapolis Star, a regret I share. Thirty years ago, while earning a Butler University degree in radio and television, I had the greatest job in the world. I was the $3.35-an-hour mail boy at WRTV Channel 6.

For a working-class kid from Washington High School, this was heady stuff. In addition to running errands and delivering packages, I interacted daily with such legends as Howard Caldwell, a consummate gentleman and patient professional.

Howard taught me how to write copy, one vital word at a time.

Krull’s column left me with a more fundamental question: Where is the next generation of 18-year-old firebrands? Who will light a fire beneath those kids from our state and private universities? And even if they do, to what do these aspirants legitimately have to look forward? Layoffs? Pauper wages? Mergers? A profession that prides itself on vanity, immediacy and infotainment?

More fundamentally, who’s going to teach these would-be reporters, editors and producers how to construct a grammatically-sound, evocative sentence? How to place a story in context so the reader has a clue as to what’s going on?

That’s the real tragedy of these Gannett layoffs, the stooping to infotainment and the dumbing down of not just a new generation of Woodwards and Bernsteins (if they even know who that is), and the slow death of the entire Fourth Estate.

With savvy journalists, we old anchor and P.R. guys know to expect tough, insightful questions. We can insist that our clients have thoughtful answers and assure them they’ll get fair treatment.

With experienced journalists, we can count on context—not just sensational stand-alone stories.

Until and unless I see some semblance of this returning to our democracy, I’m going to keep pushing my youngest son into psychology or pre-law and my oldest into serving the children he loves so much. It’s a different legacy than what I had envisioned for them, but for our family, it will do.

It’s the rest of us I worry about.


Ernie Reno
media adviser, Hetrick Communications

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