Written by Lori Higginbotham
Steve Blow is one of the biggest reasons I decided to become a journalist.
For those not from the Dallas/Fort Worth area, or those without the daily subscription to the “Dallas Morning News,” (Sunday-only subscribers should rethink: the weekday paper is also large enough to function effectively as a doorstop, and the plastic bag covering the paper is perfect for picking up after Fido in the park), Steve Blow is Thursday’s Opinions columnist. He writes witty and insightful columns about the goings-on in the Dallas area. Thursday is always my favorite day in Dallas, because not only is it the day the Daily Living section is dedicated entirely to Fashion!Dallas, but it is the day Steve Blow will entrance me with another one of his articles. What also fascinates me is that he makes people talk—recently I heard two Dallasites in Kroger engrossed in a heated argument about one of Blow’s articles discussing the re-naming of a street downtown. Steve Blow, to me, is the ideal opinions columnist. He is funny without being silly, intelligent without being overly academic, and most importantly, he makes people think. Little kids always talk about what they want to be when they grow up—a firefighter, a writer, Superman. When I grow up, I want to be Steve Blow.
Three months ago, my fifteen-year-old sister called me with an announcement. She was starting a blog. Everyday, she was going to pour her angst-y, tragic, teenage heart out to MySpace, add a few smiley face graphics, and give the link to all her friends. They’d read it, comment, and write their own blogs. In theory, it sounded perfect to her. And in practice, unlike so many other things, it actually worked. Her friends are completely caught up in the virtual world of who dumped whom, who called Liz fat and who posted that hideous picture of the head cheerleader. It all started with an opinion and a few typed words.
Today, everyone is a “citizen journalist”, especially in the world of opinions and editorials. Anyone can think of an idea, an argument—however trivial or meaningless to the rest of the world—and publish in a blog. Anyone with a digital camera can capture a moment, however fuzzy and unfocused, and post it on Facebook. Anyone with a video camera can post the latest and greatest video on YouTube. As a college student, I am totally and completely engrossed in this Facebook-blog-YouTube world.
Because expressing yourself is so incredibly simple, it is easy to trivialize what the professional journalists and opinions columnists, like Steve Blow, are doing. Sometimes it’s hard to see why their opinions matter, why their columns should be prioritized over the countless number of blogs, of amateur webzines and underground print media.
Yet I believe you should read Steve Blow over my sister’s MySpace, and in a competition between Facebook photographers and professional journalists, the professionals should win.
Professional journalists have a social responsibility to their public. They have a duty to report the news truthfully, because they are affecting the lives of those around them. They have a duty to editorialize ethically because they are affecting the opinions of those around them. Professional journalists have a cultural influence unmatched by the amateur public. In what I’ve heard called “The Information Age” the media has more power, more influence and more sway than earlier generations imagined. Therefore, there is also an unmatched level of social responsibility that comes with this new power. The more “citizen journalists” post pictures, written pieces and videos on the internet, the harder professional journalists must work to ensure their public is getting a true, ethical version of events. The more teenagers post on MySpace, the harder Steve Blow must work to ensure the opinions of DFW are being affected in a positive, responsible way.
I don’t believe that professional and “citizen” journalists are inherently at odds with one another. It isn’t necessary for professional journalists to work to undo the wrongdoings of the amateurs. I do believe, however, that by virtue of their chosen professions, journalists should work to promote good, to help communities and to foster a state of informed opinions. Facebookers and YouTube-ers, however, are not, and shouldn’t be, held to the same levels of responsibility as professional journalists. In the same way a firefighter works to put out a burning house, a journalist should work to keep the public responsibly informed. It is their responsibility, and no one else’s.
While I have no problem with my sister’s MySpace rants, I always make sure to cut Steve Blow’s articles out of the “Dallas Morning News” for her. If she’s going to put her opinions out in cyberspace, she needs to be informed.
And on Thursdays, Steve Blow is always there to help.