Blunted muckrakers and milquetoast bootlickers

COLUMBIA, Mo 03/10/15 (Letter) -- Several thousand Twitterers tweeted a Heart Beat story about CoMo journalism educators Dianne Lynch (Stephens College) and Katherine Reed (Mizzou) proposing radical reforms to J-School -- Columbia's flagship, world-renowned university offering. 

The education of journalists is critically important, as free speech has become one of few real freedoms left in countries such as the U.S.  

But both journalists and readers alike are bemoaning how the profession has evolved, from the muckraking traditions of Woodward and Bernstein into corporate and government lapdogism.   A Columbia Daily Tribune op-ed about April's utility rate ballot propositions reflects this concern.  

"Over the next few weeks, press releases will be dutifully echoed by local media...and a propaganda-fueled, authoritarian aura of inevitability will be crafted," sustainability expert Tom O'Connor writes.  

The ideas Lynch and Reed present -- chief among them "breaking down barriers" to relevant journalism education that protect university hierarchies rather than students -- must have struck a nerve.   They certainly did with one Twitter follower, an avid journalism watcher, critic, and he says, 2007 Mizzou J-School grad who uses the nom de plume John Redacted.  

He wrote the Heart Beat shortly after the story appeared, mincing no words:

My name is John.  My last name is {{Redacted}}

I've worked in journalism (most of the time) since I graduated with a Master's degree from Mizzou eight years ago.

I'd like to comment on the Feb. 25 Heart Beat story "Change Gang" by email.   Fuck Facebook.

Journalism schools aren't substantively much more than an establishment stamp of validation.   As a former J-school student, I certainly built confidence at MU, and I would be a lying asshole if I didn't say I learned a thing or two from some knowledgeable people.

But I certainly wouldn't say it's necessary to attend an official J-school to become a decent reporter.   In fact, I think in more cases than not (and I'm being nice) it's a detriment to a reporter's acumen

J-school blunts any real muckraking tendencies.   It values milquetoast bootlickers like [Meet the Press host] Chuck Todd, not shitkickers who go for the jugular, like Barrett Brown -- who is in jail for fairly basic reporting.   Mizzou is no different,  and I would bet my life no one at Mizzou has mentioned Brown's name as a model for students.

For shits and giggles, I once posed before the vaunted "Mizzou Mafia" J-School listserv what I belie
ve to be serious, foundational questions about modern journalism.   [The Mizzou Mafia are J-School alums.]

My questions pertained to the plight(s) of Brown, Chelsea Manning/Wikileaks, and the Obama Administration's pursuit of whistleblowers, which is an intimidation tactic aimed at journalism, too.

I wanted to know how Mizzou has handled these pressing issues in its coursework.  This is a listserv, I would guess,
that has a wide and influential journalist audience.  

I was derided as a crank or a kook by a few; tepidly supported by one or two; and from the rest -- silence.  

Maybe this is a function of who owns the media.  Those who have the capital to start some kind of journalism venture weed-out anybody with teeth.   Or maybe those responses were functions of a listserv that has come to be about employment opportunities, and not deep discussion.

But damn! 

I recently returned to Columbia and I read the Heartbeat from time to time.   I believe it's an important voice in the city.  Thank you for your work, dedication, and valuable perspective.  Keep it up.

"John Redacted" is a journalism watcher and critic.