My palms sweated a bit as I slid the VHS into the deck and hit play. In a trite flurry of New Year’s organization, I’d found a 29-year old video recording of my college graduation speech.
As is our habit during cleaning frenzies, we all immediately stopped, plopped down on clutter strewn furniture, and rolled tape.
With one eye on the consistently kind but brutally blunt 16-year old daughter sitting next to me, and another half squinting at the greenish screen, I held my breath and watched the drama unfold.
I felt almost as nervous as I had that day, remembering my panic when I realized I had told my parents the wrong time for the afternoon ceremony, my concern that my brand of self-deprecating humor might fall flat, and my utter exhaustion after a crazy week of pre-graduation parties.
In some ways I still felt like the girl on the screen, in others I hardly recognized her.
I came to Marquette University in the fall of 1982 because I genuinely loved to write and I wanted to pursue my degree at a metropolitan school with a thriving school of journalism.
I graduated with a decent portfolio thanks to cool class assignments and my work at the student newspaper, letters of recommendation from my internships at local radio and television stations, and, happily, a job as a sports reporter for the Streator Times-Press.
That girl thought she’d win a Pulitzer before she turned 30.
This one jammies up, sips tea and mom blogs in the extra hours of her day.
The profession I championed has changed as well.
Shrinking news holes and staff boxes have rendered the daily newspaper nearly unrecognizable, despite a growing global appetite for constant information (albeit often meted out in 140 character tweets).
I worried as I watched my speech that I’d feel sorry for both the girl making it and the industry she represented.
Instead, weirdly, I felt energized.
“The most fascinating aspects of journalism are the tools of the trade,” I said.”People and words.”
True when I said it in 1986, true when Nelly Bly crafted her articles in 1922, and still true today.
People and words.
We’ll always crave stories, and rely on talented people to convey them.
Though they’ll be working in a far different arena than I did, I hope today’s graduating reporters still benefit from the wisdom of professors like Marquette Dean James Scotton and the late George Reedy.
Social media may have rendered traditional gate keepers obsolete, but the world still needs trained journalists, fact advocates, and story seekers.
I know they’re still out there because I read their work every day.
They’re the bloggers and beat writers, the podcasters and producers, scripters and scribes.
I urge young writers to pay careful attention to their craft, seek mentors, read quality material, find a voice and develop it with integrity and care.
There’s a brave new world of journalism out there, and I, for one, am excited to dive in.
Here’s the speech, video taped by my dad…
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