I started Notes from a Teacher in January 2003 to use the power of blogging to share information with students in my journalism classes. Blogging is ideal for that: quick posting of timely information to add to what happens in the classroom. It’s become much more.
I spent 26 years working as a reporter, photographer and editor, with community-based weeklies, dailies and two- and three-issue-a-week newspapers. (The photo is mid to late ’70s, I’d guess.) I wasn’t trained for journalism; I fell into it after foundering around after high school. My education came from newsrooms, conferences, books, magazines and not a few bull sessions in bars. I was fortunate. In almost every newsroom I worked, there were talent and committed journalists, whose passion, skill and talent I could learn from.
Over those 26 years, I committed a lot of journalistic “sins,” most often through ignorance. I also worked for newspapers, and guided newsrooms, that produced award-winning writing and photography.
I also fell into teaching. I had left newspapers and was struggling to make money with a home-based graphic design business when I had the chance to team-teach a newspaper production class. That was eight years ago and I’ve learned to teach the same way I learned to report: by making a lot of mistakes (but not too many of the same ones), by learning from the talented people around me, through books and seminars. Early in the process, I realized that I was probably getting more out of teaching than my students were: I rediscovered the passion for journalism that had been beaten down by the day-to-day practice of it in an increasingly corporatized mediascape.
Notes from a Teacher grew out of all that: a desire to share information and passion for something I consider important — journalism.
A funny thing has happened, though. The more I read, the more I see that we are in the middle of a significant media revolution, driven by the combination of technology, reader dissatisfaction and the desire of passionate journalists to do something better. The nature of my posts has changed. I still use the blog to get assignment details, followups and class-related information to students, but increasingly I point to, and react to, the small and big bits of information that were driving the new debates about journalism, and the new potential models for journalism.
The latter is more and more what Notes from a Teacher is about, hence the subtitle: Mark on Media. In each class I teach, there are only a handful of students (and sometimes not even that) who read this blog. But others do. Over the course of the past year, there has been a steady increase in traffic. I’ve been humbled and honoured to find myself on the links lists of some of the journalists and writers that I admire. At times, I’ve been able to add something to the ongoing discussion about what media is and where it may be going.
These are the most exciting (and scary) times I’ve ever seen in journalism. It is increasingly obvious that the mediascape we live in is going to be significantly different five years from now, and it will be significantly different five years after that. I haven’t come across anyone who can clearly see what those changes will be, but the possible shapes of the beast are starting to emerge. As much as the roiling confusion of the present makes my head hurt, watching it, and being part of the conversation, gives me huge satisfaction.
Notes from a Teacher is a labour of love. I don’t get paid to do this. There’s no connection between this blog and Kwantlen University College, where I teach. I make no money from this and pay for it all — the hosting and registration fees, the software, the hardware, etc. — myself.
Over the past year, I’ve posted everything from snippets of media-related TV dialogue to pointers to award-winning journalism to longish pieces that attempt to add to the conversation about journalism and media, what it is, what it should be and what it could be. Dave Weinberger, in a podcasted speech, said that our blogs are “who we are on the internet” and that in the flow of our posts “we are writing ourselves into existence.” Blogging about the mediascape that we’re increasingly immersed in, helps me think it through and gives me a sense that I have a hold on some small corner of the reality of journalism.
To me, blogging seems like writing a good story. I once heard Susan Orlean speak and she said that every good story is a journey.
This is mine.