Yesterday I had one of the great honors of my professional life: I got to introduce the launch of a Journalism major at Loyola Marymount University. It was a momentous day to be talking about the newsgathering profession, as I acknowledged in my opening remarks before Los Angeles Times columnist Steven Lopez took the stage and inspired the approximately 200 audience members — most of them students — with his stories and advice. Afterward, he and HLN anchor/CNN writer Carol Costello discussed the state of the news industry, sometimes heatedly. A day later, when CNN’s reporting of a confrontation between two women and Senator Jeff Flake apparently marked another turn in this dramatic story, my comments about the convergence of journalism and feminism seem more appropriate than ever.
This is an extraordinary day. I have to acknowledge the pedagogical irony that we journalism professors constantly tell our students they must stay on top of the news, and then we have asked you to be here in this room instead of glued to your screens or radios. We didn’t know, obviously, when we picked this day what would happen. I promise we will only keep you for an hour, and then we can all get back to events in Washington. I also want us all to keep in mind how emotionally difficult today’s hearings can be for many of us. We talk a lot about trigger warnings in academia. Today was explosive for many of us, not because we are snowflakes, but because we are human beings. So please treat each other with especial kindness and empathy this difficult week.
I was going to start my introduction with the question, Why journalism now? But today’s hearing answers that question for me. Two of the most important forces in my life — journalism and feminism — have come together to challenge the citadels of power. From Gretchen Carlson to The New York Times, Times Up to the Washington Post, and MeToo to The New Yorker, citizens and journalists have exposed abuses of power. The fruits of that labor — and it is labor, hard, harrowing, exhausting work — are playing out in the senate as we speak. And the attacks on the media — attacks that have become deadly in our own country — are also being renewed right now, in DC. Let me assure you: LMU Journalism is not training the enemies of the people. We are teaching the reporters, editors, videographers, photographers, reviewers, anchors, columnists and podcasters of tomorrow how to inform the people.
LMU decided to launch a journalism major because young people asked for it. Students enrolled here asked for it and students applying here asked for it. Indeed, though we officially became a major only this fall, we have almost 50 students enrolled already. They asked not because they are looking for a sure way to make a living. I’m here to tell you right now that you don’t get rich being a reporter. They asked because they care about the world that they are inheriting, and they know that journalism is a way to make that world a better place. They understand that a free and open press is fundamental to the functioning of our democratic republic, and they want to make sure that press presents and represents them. We are a Journalism program, housed in a department with a tradition of rhetorical analysis, in a college dedicated to understanding humanity, at a university committed to personal and cultural transformation: Telling people’s stories is our mission.