Last summer, I had the opportunity to teach a journalism class of 10- to 12-year-olds. The pitch I was delivered before signing up implied that these children were going to give my life meaning with their smiles, good charm and malleable minds.
No. They were
bats from hell extras from "Children of the Corn" brats who screamed, yelled and developed crushes on each other which quickly turned violent. They were vicious and impossible to pry from their iPod Touches.
My attempts at being a teacher of brave, ethical journalism quickly morphed into that of an underpaid, specialized babysitter. For the first time in my life, I pitied Rosalyn from "Calvin and Hobbes."
I tried everything to get the attention of the tweens, including dramatically re-enacting several popular commercials. They gave me blank stares and called me fat. Oh, dignity. R.I.P.
Only once I was able to hold their complete attention for more than a few seconds. Of course, I was talking about Michael Jackson.
Chill out. It wasn't about THAT. I began by giving them a brief synopsis of how social media such as Twitter had played a huge role in the Iran election
. Surprisingly, the children became entranced by my tale of a green-waving young population caught up in the struggles of an insane dictator and messianic opponent. I described how the news media at large began to focus on the tweets being daringly released from ground witnesses. I described to the children how it appeared as if a tyrant might be deposed in 140 words or less.
"And do you know what happened next?" I asked.
"What!" they exclaimed, breathless from the suspense. "What, oh great teacher, please tell us!"
"Michael Jackson died
," I said.
At first, they couldn't understand why Michael Jackson was a big deal. They wanted to know why any news media outlet with considerable reach and power would ignore a democratic crisis in order to focus on one dead celebrity.
"To be fair," I told the children, "there were two dead celebrities. Farrah Fawcett, remember?"
They still didn't understand.
"That's not right," they said.
"But don't you want to sell newspapers?" I told them.
"No," the children said. "We want to give the world fair, justified news coverage that can expose and depose the corrupt leaders of the world like Ahmadinejad, and give celebrities space on page two, where they belong!"
Kids say the darndest things, don't they?
I've been thinking about that this past week, ever since the news about the earthquake in Haiti hit the airwaves. The news reports read like dramatic, tearjerking novels and the television specials will break your heart. These people have been ripped from their homes, families and dignity. Even the president has lost his home.
I can't help but wonder ... how long is this excellent coverage going to last? The Haitians are hot this week, but what about next week? Next month? The problems aren't going to be solved when the TV is turned off. The destruction going on in Haiti will be seen by them much, much longer than it is seen by us.
I might be acting doom-and-gloom-y, but it's a pattern I have seen repeated time and time again. The Haitian earthquake will be news so long as it sells.
That being said, I want to give props to ABC News, for their outstanding and human coverage
. Their on-site reporters brought the crisis right to my heart with a special they aired tonight, causing me to click the "DONATE NOW" button on my computer. Now that
I wonder if I taught those kids anything? I doubt it. I think maybe they taught me something. I learned that
I will cut off my hand before I go into teaching adopt a 22-year-old integrity does still exist, and that maybe, just maybe, the generations coming will have a little more common sense than the ones leaving.
My prayers go out to those in Haiti. I am so sorry for your loss. This is one blogger who won't forget you, no matter how famous the obituary list reads.