Categorized | Letters

The Art of Storytelling

[mags]The next time you meet a journalism student or your friend tells you they’re thinking about a career in writing or editing, please don’t tell them print is dying. We’ve all heard that song. We’re sick of it, and obviously we don’t buy it.
Journalism students are hopefuls who think it’s important to give voice to those who are silenced and analyze the voices of those we hear everyday. We like to create a dialogue and be engaged in society. As Jason Mark, editor-in-chief of Earth Island Journal, puts it, “Journalism is a more sophisticated take on ancient storytelling.”
Jessica Sipperley, editor-in-chief of The Big Green, Kim Bale, managing editor, and I had the extreme pleasure to be enveloped in a room crawling with modern day storytellers during Campus Progress and The Nation‘s West Coast Youth Journalism Conference on Jan. 26 at UCLA. Being in the company of iconic alternative and independent journalists such as Naomi Klein, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Andrew Lam and Marc Cooper was nothing short of exhilarating as we all near graduation and prepare ourselves for what we hope will be careers that even remotely resemble those in attendance.
The conference was possible thanks to Campus Progress, a branch of the Center for American Progress that promotes the rising and strengthening of progressive voices on college and university campuses around the country. More specifically, they have been the most life-giving financial supporter of The Big Green this year, allowing us to publish our second print issue at the end of this semester. TBG has struggled to gain ground on MSU’s campus as a progressive media outlet, but with the encouragement and assistance of Campus Progress, we have been able to gain resources to use journalism for change.
The conference brought us face-to-face with our peers and allies, those who are promoting the type of analysis and thoughtful journalism that TBG advocates for. Audience chairs were packed with eager-to-succeed students hanging on the words of the greats. The room was filled with young progressive-minded folks who no doubt think that with smooth strokes of their pen they can bring about justice for a battered woman, promote environmental sustainability or bring to light a damning political scandal. We’re young, and, as goes with the territory, our eyes are generally a little wider, our hearts are a little more open, and our plans are a little more ambitious. The refreshing fact was that nearly every professional who addressed us encouraged our youthful, if not over-reaching, plans. “Never forget that idealism is a form of resistance,” vanden Huevel said in her welcoming remark.[panel9]
She started the conference off on the right foot. We nestled into our seats, opened our ears and tried to digest as much advice as possible within the hours that followed. Nearly all advice was taken to heart: “Reporting and investigating is getting your ass out there,” Richard Reeves, author and syndicated columnist said. “You can’t frame a story until you experience a story,” Andrew Lam, writer and editor with New America Media, said. “You’ll need to balance a skeptical eye with a hopeful heart,” Jason Mark said. “Get involved. Change the equation. Know what you’re talking about,” Tom Hayden, author, activist and former California state legislator said. Sage advice backed by innumerable personal anecdotes from the field flooded the room as we all tried to scribble down the rush of enlightening information.
[naomi3]Arguably the most anticipated speaker, Naomi Klein, delivered what I consider to be one of the most intriguing speeches I have ever attended. Klein is a Canadian journalist, activist and bestselling author of No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies (2000) and The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007). Although she likely had a broader knowledge base than anyone in the room, her charming demeanor put everyone at ease as she looked all of us in the eye with complete confidence that we would thrive in the journalism world. If there is only one thing I will take from her speech, it is her idea of what she calls “body knowledge.” She claims that while everyone can have intellectual knowledge, it takes more to have deep body knowledge of an issue; this is something she believes has been the reason for her success. “It’s really easy for progressives to be called hysterics,” she said. “Deep body knowledge is the only thing I’ve found to counter that and become a more credible voice.” The moment she said that, I wanted to get out of my seat, graduate, become a journalist and grasp her meaning of having body knowledge of a story so important your body can feel it.
But that will happen soon enough. Jessica, Kim and I will all graduate in May. While Kim has a jealousy-invoking plan to spend seven months traveling around the world, Jessica and I are a bit more undecided. If nothing else, this conference got me geared up to join the band of alternative journalists who are using their independent voices to produce the most solid and reliable journalism available.
Print isn’t dying. Anyone who thinks it is needs to meet the alternative press.

Here are some independent publications to check out:
Mother Jones
The Nation
Utne Reader
Ms.
Bitch
make/shift
ColorLines
Adbusters
The Sun
Wilson Quarterly
n+1
Arabia Felix
Geist
Maisonneuve
The Walrus
Virginia Quarterly Review
Tin House
Hip Mama
ReadyMade
High Desert Journal
meatpaper
Bear Deluxe
POZ
Brain, Child
OnEarth
GOOD Magazine
The Christian Science Monitor
Kyoto Journal
Polite
Bidoun
Theme
The Believer
Raw Vision
The American Prospect
Reason
Indian Country Today
Gastronomica
Guilt & Pleasure
The Next American City

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