DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER: Keeping Journalism Strong
Starting the day after terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center in 2001, and as the American psyche reeled from the attacks, reporter Alex Tizon set out across America to gather individuals’ stories. Along with a photographer, Tizon collected stories and viewpoints—each adding an important puzzle piece to the larger picture, and a cumulative body of journalism that rivals greats like Studs Terkle and Ed Murrow.
And, importantly, during these post-9/11 assignment, he also visited Hawaii and incorporated the lifestyles and viewpoints from Americans whose viewpoints are not always represented—and he did so with some much empathy and compassion, giving as much credence to the chill surfer as the rapid gun-enthusiast.
Tizon was a remarkable reporter, someone who told individual stories and wrote them large on the canvass of ethnic and national identity and politics. He won a Pulitzer Prize and wrote a beautiful memoir about his feelings of alimentation as a Filipino-American—and, poignantly, showed that often it is the marginalized who are actually making up the character and tenacity of America. In recent years, Tizon taught journalism at the University of Oregon. In late March, at the age of 57, he died in his sleep in Eugene. The world of journalism—and the world as a kind and considerate place—is less because of his departure.
And, his passing is an important reminder about the fragility of journalism—especially print journalism. Tizon worked for the Seattle Times, where he won a Pulitzer in investigative reporting in 1997, and later at The Los Angeles Times, where he was Seattle bureau chief. Over the past decade, dozens of major American stories have lost their daily newspapers, including the rapidly fading Oregonian—and in this frustrating trend, America has lost platforms for telling important stories, like Tizon did throughout his career. After all, it is the individual journalists who make up the “media,” and give it its character and compassion, not the platforms.
That is not to say, that there are not encouraging trends in journalism and media. In the same period of time when newspapers have been closing, other mediums—like documentary film—have been growing stronger; some of the same technology that is outmoding print media is making visual media more accessible, both for the producer and consumer. And, at the recent Ashland International Film Festival, the strength of this new media was on full display, as were its current vulnerabilities.
If you didn’t see Nobody Speaks at the film festival, watch in on Netflix as soon as possible. Director Brian Knappenberger has produced an engaging and critical film about the current state of free speech, case-studied through the recent Hulk Hogan sex tape lawsuit against Gawker. And, if you didn’t see Dolores, directed by one of Ashland’s newest residents, Peter Bratt, do so, and be inspired both by the life of a stalwart activist (Dolores Huerta) and by the quality storytelling done by Bratt. These films and journalism are driven by determined and dedicated journalists, and we left the film festival inspired to continuing adding as much to journalism and discussion over civic concerns as possible.
Starting with this issue, the Messenger is asking readers to help support our publication and to recognize the importance of local media in the region. For three years, the Rogue Valley Messenger has been delivering important news stories, insightful cultural reviews and the region’s best calendar of events. We have been proud to present “Public Profile,” a regular section for the newspaper that allows community leaders to present their personalities and opinions with no filter, and we have been excited to weigh in on civic issues, whether that is Medford City Council considering how to treat homeless men and women, or advocating for voters to support public transportation.
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