Presty the DJ for Nov. 26

The number 14 single today in 1958 was this singer’s first entry on the charts, but certainly not his last:

Today in 1967, the Beatles’ “Hello Goodbye” promotional film (now called a “video”) was shown on CBS-TV’s Ed Sullivan Show. It was not shown in Britain because of a musicians’ union ban on miming:

One death of odd note, today in 1973: John Rostill, former bass player with the Shadows (with which Cliff Richard got his start), was electrocuted in his home recording studio. A newspaper headline read: “Pop musician dies; guitar apparent cause.”

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Ferguson’s future

Fred Siegel:

The American understanding of riots and racial violence was shaped a half-century ago, during the insurrections of the 1960s. To judge by the responses to the current rioting in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, little has changed since then. After riots have wrought their physical and psychic damage, some invariably declare that the unrest was constructive. Patricia Bynes, a Democratic committeewoman for Ferguson, rationalized that the events in Ferguson would benefit the entire metropolitan area because, she said, “St. Louis never has had its true race moment, where they had to confront this.” She was topped by Missouri Highway Patrol captain Ron Johnson, who has been leading the police response in Ferguson. Speaking to a unity rally at a local church, Johnson suggested that, somehow, Brown’s death was “going to make it better for our sons to be better black men.” One rioter, who wouldn’t give his name, admitted that “If it wasn’t for the looting, we wouldn’t get the attention.” The virtue of disruption, academics and observers argue, is that it gives African-Americans a crisis with which to bargain. But after 50 years, what has this bargain achieved, except to cultivate a community that excels in resentment?

It’s not just African-Americans who are stuck in the sixties. Reporters are still seeking out the Kerner Commission’s white racists, who are ultimately to blame for all racial problems. Historians and sociologists are offering structural explanations for the violence; whites in general, and small businesses in particular, have little to say but simply flee to safer climes. In Ferguson, after a week of unrest that included looting and rioting, we know very little about the incident that resulted in Michael Brown’s death, despite the release of the first pathology report. The officer involved is in seclusion and has given no public statements. The Grand Jury, should one be convened, will likely have only a vague picture of what happened.

When Trayvon Martin was killed in 2012, the media constructed a racial narrative around the case—especially NBC news, which doctored tapes of George Zimmerman’s 911 call. It wasn’t until much later that pictures were shown of Zimmerman’s dark-skinned, Peruvian mother. Had those pictures been publicized earlier, the public might have understood that Trayvon Martin’s tragic death was not an example of a Klan-like murder.

In Ferguson, the media’s preferred narrative—a “gentle giant” of a young black man gunned down for no reason by a racist cop—was short-circuited by a videotape, taken minutes before his death, depicting Michael Brown strong-arming a diminutive store clerk who’d caught him stealing a box of cigarillos. Deflated, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer described the video as a “smear.” Does he think the tape should have been suppressed? His CNN colleague Jake Tapper, just back from apologizing for Hamas in Gaza and justifiably angered by the misuse of military equipment to intimidate suburban civilians, subjected the state’s Democratic governor, Jay Nixon, to a vigorous grilling. Tapper suggested that Nixon had some atoning to do for his supposedly racist past before he could be relied on to take action in Ferguson. If only Tapper had been so hard-edged with Hamas.

Historian Colin Gordon has revived the old chestnut that the rioting owes to the failure of big cities to incorporate suburbs. The problem, argues Gordon, is that small towns and cities compete with each other to attract businesses. If they had higher taxes, it’s implied, they could afford to spend more on social services. But does anyone think that Ferguson would be better off incorporated into a dysfunctional St. Louis? The vast city of Los Angeles, with its 469 square miles (compared with St. Louis’s 69) saw two of the most violent “rebellions” of the last 50 years. What, in Gordon’s estimation, accounts for that?

Riots bring but one certainty—enormous economic and social costs. Businesses flee, taking jobs and tax revenues with them. Home values decline for all races, but particularly for blacks. Insurance costs rise and civic morale collapses. The black and white middle classes move out. Despite its busy port and enormous geographic assets, Newark, New Jersey has never fully recovered from its 1967 riot. This year, Newark elected as its mayor Ras Baraka, the son and political heir of Amiri Baraka—the intellectual inspiration for the 1967 unrest.

The story is similar in Detroit, which lost half its residents between 1967 and 2000. Civic authority was never restored after the late 1960s riots, which never really ended; they just continued in slow motion. “It got decided a long time ago in Detroit,” explained Adolph Mongo, advisor to the jailed former “hip-hop mayor,” Kwame Kilpatrick, that “the city belongs to the black man. The white man was a convenient target until there were no white men left in Detroit.” The upshot, explained Sam Riddle, an advisor to current congressman John Conyers, first elected in 1965, is that “the only difference between Detroit and the Third World in terms of corruption is that Detroit don’t have no goats in the streets.”

The grotesque pantomime of repression and redemption, riots and never-quite-achieved rewards, plays out time and again. The chaos in Ferguson is but the latest episode of this long, sad drama of resentment and revenge. The drama persists in part because so many journalists and academics, not to mention black activists, have so much invested in it. It’s the conceptual air that they breathe. Sadly, to paraphrase the philosopher Ernest Gellner, some failed practices cannot be the subject of reconsideration, because they already shape the way we think.

No doubt little will be learned from Ferguson. No doubt there will be more Fergusons.

Rod Dreher adds:

However unjust the provocation, burning down your own house is never a good idea. All the concern expressed by all the journalists, activists, and academics in the world will not replace the lost businesses and the lost middle class. The kind of people — black, white, Hispanic, Asian, and so forth — that you need around to build a viable and thriving neighborhood will leave, and they really don’t care what you think.

Imagine that the residents of Ferguson would have responded with non-violent resistance, and met the tear gas of the police with same.

Martin Luther King Jr. was not only a spiritual genius, he also saved America — black America and white America both — from a terrible fate. If the Palestinians ever produce a MLK, it will be a new world.

Presty the DJ for Nov. 25

Today in 1969, John Lennon returned his Member of the Order of the British Empire medal as, in his accompanying note,  “a protest against Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against ‘Cold Turkey’ slipping down the charts.”

The number one single today in 1972 should have been part of my blog about the worst music of all time:

Today in 1976, The Band gave its last performance, commemorated in Martin Scorsese’s film “The Last Waltz”:

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The J-school of the future

For some reason, this post on PBS MediaShift seems pertinent these days:

If I were to lead a journalism school today, I’d want its mission to be: We make the media we need for the world we want.

Not: We are an assembly line for journalism wannabes. …

Journalism is changing all around us. It’s no longer the one-size-fits-all conventions and rules I grew up with. Not what I was taught at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. Not what I practiced for 20 years at The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Yet, as someone who consumes a lot of media, I find I like journalism that has some transparent civic impulses, some sensibilities about possible solutions, and some acknowledged aspirations toward the public good. Even though I realize that might make some traditional journalists squirm.

And I’d assert that — if the journalism industry really wants to engage its audiences and woo new ones, and if the academy wants its journalism schools to flourish — it’s time for journalism schools to embrace a larger mission and to construct a different narrative about the merits of a journalism education. …

It’s time to think about trumpeting a journalism degree as the ultimate Gateway Degree, one that can get you a job just about anywhere, except perhaps the International Space Station.

Sure, you might land at your local news outlet. But, armed with a journalism degree, infused with liberal arts courses and overlaid with digital media skills, you are also attractive to information startups, non-profits, the diplomatic corps, commercial enterprises, the political arena and tech giants seeking to build out journalism portfolios, among others.

We already know that a journalism education — leavened with liberal arts courses and sharpened with interviewing, research, writing, digital production and social media competencies — is an excellent gateway to law school or an MBA. And we already know that journalism education has moved away from primarily teaching students how to be journalists. Indeed, seven out of 10 journalism and mass communication students are studying advertising and public relations, according to the UGA study.

In particular, schools that offer students hands-on experience running real newsrooms, a piece of the “teaching hospital” model of journalism education, pave the road to richer, more varied futures.

Refining the Gateway Degree, however, means embracing different types of journalism and showcasing different definitions of success achieved by alums, not just highlighting those who work in news organizations.

Journalism education as a Gateway Degree is a good business proposition — both for the journalism schools and for the industry. We need journalism schools to teach more than inverted-pyramid stories and video and digital production, in part because the industry is awash in entrepreneurial startups that are practicing excellent journalism but are increasingly mission-driven. They are driving strong coverage of public schools, public health, diverse communities and sustainable cities. …

For many of today’s startup founders, it’s not enough to afflict the comfortable or speak truth to power. They want their journalism to solve problems, improve lives and help make things better. These startups want measureable impact beyond winning a journalism prize or changing legislation — while still adhering to core journalism values. This is a mindset, however, not a skill set, and one not often addressed in a standard journalism curriculum.

Instead, journalism schools in recent years have been hyper-focused on skill sets – convergence in the last decade, and coding and data skills in this one.

Media entrepreneurship courses especially can help pave the way for embracing a broader mission and cultivating different mindsets. Courses in entrepreneurial journalism train students to spot what disruptive innovation guru Clay Christensen calls “jobs [that need] to be done” and rethink how to engage audiences in those challenges. Students do competitive scans (a good exercise for solutions reporting); they construct business plans (a useful reality exercise); and they build wireframes, proof-of-concept sites or apps (an introduction to the maker culture).

These activities also help channel those students who come to journalism school thinking they are going to produce works of art — the “I like to write” students — into more grounded work.

Equally important, though, is the role that journalism education can play in the aspirations and social mindsets of Millennials, who are now wearing two hats: as news consumers and news creators. “One of the characteristics of Millennials, besides the fact that they are masters of digital communication, is that they are primed to do well by doing good. Almost 70 percent say that giving back and being civically engaged are their highest priorities,” Leigh Buchanon writes in Meet the Millennials.

There is more work to be done in rendering how responsible journalism meshes with responsible aspirations to advance the public good. But the ripple effect of engaging audiences in issues people care about can be enormous if news organizations master the onramps.

As someone who straddles the line between being one of those “traditional journalists” and, well, this blog, I don’t agree with all of this. Our society that divides itself along, at a minimum, political and religious lines has a hard time defining “public good” by consensus, largely because improving “public good” means taking something away from someone. Political discourse hasn’t been improved by the media’s bifurcating itself into left (MSNBC) and right (Fox News) either.

However, if that’s where the media is headed, one needs to be prepared for it.