Real journalism will march forward – and I’ll go with itby Otto Ross on May. 16, 2009, under Calendar Plus
Citizen Staff Writer
“The Times They are A-Changin’ ”
Come writers and critics who prophesy with your pen . . .
When I was 9 I wrote a 20-page book about a superhero mouse titled, “ONYAY.” This was the magic word he would say before throwing the cat into the sink or lifting the school. For illustrations, my mom took me to a local pet shop and we posed mice in tiny Superman capes. I still prefer to take my own photos.
Twelve years, multiple journalism classes and a brief stint with the Arizona Daily Wildcat later, I landed a three-week internship with the Tucson Citizen.
My first assignment was a Calendar cover story about local painter David Tineo, whose eyesight has been deteriorating over the years, making it more difficult for him to pursue his passion. I could not have asked for a better assignment. Being able to write about such an extraordinary man who has managed to overcome such adversity was something I hardly expected to be doing in my first week. I was covering a story that I legitimately cared about and that I thought the public would as well.
I can’t forget the gratification I experienced the following week when I saw the center-spread photo of Tineo in front of his mural. Aside from the awe of seeing my byline, I truly felt that I was doing something significant, something that would make a difference to somebody, anybody, maybe just him.
Since then, the Tucson Citizen has given me many other opportunities to further explore this aspect of journalism. On another assignment, I sat on the low cushions of a local Afghan restaurant while the family that owned it explained that in their culture serving people food is an honor, not a chore. At a local library, DJ T. Richard Smith told me about the racism and adversity he overcame to become one of Tucson’s most legendary radio personalities. In another story, the smooth-talking street magician, Crow Garrett, graciously offered me tips on how to pick up ladies using a bit of magic.
I am fascinated by people and the stories they have to tell. For the last nine months the Tucson Citizen has allowed me to make a living conveying these stories to the community. I am sincerely grateful for the time this paper and its staff allowed me to perform this service.
“Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone, for the times they are a-changin’.”
Recently, all newspapers, not just the Tucson Citizen, have fallen on hard times. Whether it’s the Internet or the economy or a cruel combination of both, traditional newspapers all over the country have been fighting to keep their heads above water. Every day seems to be the bearer of bad news for this profession that many of us hold so near and dear.
I don’t know what the future of journalism holds or whether print media can survive, but I do know that the ideals of the profession will endure, in one form or another. With the exception of police officers and firefighters, there are few other professions in this world that so highly value their duty to serve the public. While journalism can sometimes be a thankless job, there are people who dedicate themselves day in and day out, not for recognition but because they believe in the fundamentals that journalism represents. They believe that the public has the right to be informed in an accurate, dependable and professional fashion.
While I am new to the world of journalism, I like to think that through my time working with the Citizen I have begun to embody these ideals as well. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find work as newspapers sink and hiring freezes. For this reason I have been considering eventually getting a degree in teaching to ensure that I will have an income once I graduate. However, I don’t think I could ever turn my back on journalism. There is too much I would miss: The fascinating people, the fast pace, the exhilaration of creating and the accomplishment of a job well done. Then there is the overwhelming excitement of deadlines, including buckets of coffee, lack of sleep and the night terrors of thinking you’ve missed one. It’s a journo’s life for me. If that doesn’t pan out I could always go back to writing children’s novels.
Having the opportunity to work with the staff of the Tucson Citizen has opened my eyes to all of these things, both the exhilaration and the night terrors. While I did not get to know all of the staff as well as I would have liked, simply seeing their dedication has showed me what selfless and devoted people journalists are. I am so thankful to every one of you for that and wish you all the very best. Here’s to you, ol’ Tucson Citizen.