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You put a sock in it: civility lacking in obsolete journalist

by Lindsey Sine
- Posted // 2011-04-18 -

Friday evening found me doing a number of things that are not traditionally characteristic of my personality. For starters, I was putting on a dress – but when you’re headed to a dinner to benefit your most beloved college experience you don’t whine about the dress code. You pack your class and your lipstick into your handbag, and you go be a good-mannered supporter.

Amidst a list of extracurricular that included a sorority and student government, The Daily Utah Chronicle was, to steal a line from Barry White, the first, the last, my everything. Future career opportunities aside, it was a place where I was free to express my thoughts and opinions, which, as I have learned, is an opportunity that grows increasingly rare the further I slip into adulthood.

Beyond the chance to mingle with old friends, reminisce about old newsroom shenanigans and eat expensive food in the name of supporting The Chrony, I was also looking forward hearing from keynote speaker John Saltas.

I enjoy reading John Saltas’ Private Eye column in the City Weekly. As a Salt Lake City native, I remember when the Salt Lake City Weekly was called the Private Eye, a monthly publication Saltas started as an alternative to the city’s newspapers in 1984. He’s got a punchy Greek wit about him that I, as a former opinion columnist, truly appreciate. The ability to opine with an impact is appreciable, to say the least, and he does it with ease.

As he spoke, it was interesting to hear that Private Eye was the result of a fated moment in which Saltas plucked a random magazine from a stand to read that alternative city weeklies were changing the shape of local journalism. And, of course, the speech inevitably led to the question that anyone who has ever been involved in journalism asks themselves: what is to become of us in this age of new technology?

To illustrate the impact technology has on journalism, Saltas spoke of his 1989 purchase of a Mac, which put him ahead of the curve and rendered other journalists who hadn’t jumped on the Mac-train dinosaurs. As he transitioned to speaking about today’s dinosaurs, pointing at tables full of journalists from Utah’s newspapers, including his own, a shout came from nearby, “Put a sock in it, John.”

Had this gone down in a newsroom where we were all in our jeans drinking Red Bull and working on deadline, I am sure we would have all taken a 30-minute break to verbally eviscerate one another in either support or protest of what Saltas had said.

But we weren’t. The majority of us were in heels and ties at some restaurant where no journalist would normally be able to afford to dine. And luckily, save for the one individual, people brought their class with them and chose to not shout smug commentary from tables with their feet sanctimoniously kicked up on empty chairs.

As a Chronicle alum, which our guest speaker is not, I was embarrassed. That Saltas should spend time preparing his thoughts, which he undoubtedly hoped would be poignant to those worried about the landscape of journalism, only to be heckled is just damned rude.

There is a time and a place for opinion. In fact there are many times and places for opinions, including column space in a widely circulated paper, the heckler had access to. Instead, we were all forced to witness the unnecessary criticism which was totally unfounded.

You see, the point Saltas was trying to make was not that those in the newspaper industry are all dinosaurs and that we should all just bow down to Rupert Murdoch while we still have a chance to get in his good graces. No, the point was that in a world of social media, the Internet, iPads and the like, the journalism industry is open for reinterpretation. We have the chance to shape it, or the option of being a dinosaur.

Those of us who look forward to reshaping it felt eager to push forward after listening to Saltas. And I guess those of us who have resigned to being dinosaurs will want to roar ferociously at the fact that the only constant in life is change.

This post was originally published today at lindseysine.wordpress.com. Lindsey Sine is a publicist by day and writer by night who lives in Salt Lake City. She graduated from the University of Utah where she was both a columnist and section editor for the Daily Utah Chronicle's opinion section.

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