5/30/2017
Worthy of the megaphone

A hundred years ago or so, there was print, and if you were writing for the many newspapers and periodicals available on the newsstands, you were arguably worth your salt. Not everybody could write for such a big audience in those days, and if you could, chances are you had the ability to capture a story from the depths of whatever, and distill it to its essence, or elaborate it piece by piece. Or you just followed the company line and did the most you could to give your bosses a profit, if you look at what they called "yellow journalism" then.

In the intervening decades other media came along. There was radio, and while you also needed an authoritative voice to relay stories that need telling, you still needed the ability to capture those stories and deliver them in a succinct way. You had more tools at your disposal, sure, but you had more conditions to meet. Same with television. That even has more challenges; once you had to describe evocatively, but now you had to resist the urge to narrate what people already (or are supposed to be) seeing on their screens.

Still, the ability to hold the figurative megaphone and speak to the masses was reserved to those who could prove that they are able to do so, are excellent in doing so, can be trusted to do so. And so those figures became somewhat mythical, in places revered - for their intelligence, for their eloquence, for their grace. For the most part, at least. It's certainly why, all these years, I held a fascination towards journalists, even hitting myself for not having the fortitude to become one like them.

But then things change. There was long talk of opening up the process, so many more people can speak - after all, we live in a world where everybody is entitled to speak, where everybody is entitled to challenged prevailing narratives. Suddenly, your chances of holding that megaphone got much bigger. All I did, for instance, is go to some website, create an account, and start writing, hoping that someone will see what I write and think it's worth returning to. I certainly had illusions of also having intelligence, eloquence and grace.

Likely it was a mindset many shared. We can also do what they do. It's just writing about what you see, simples! There was also a brewing distrust of those who always held the megaphones, whether it's the way they focus on one story at the expense of another, or the way they fail to understand - or deliberately misunderstand - what they see for whatever end they see fit. We can also do what they do. And we can do it better! Then came even more tools, and now, everybody has a megaphone, and everybody is screaming, vitriolic in particular towards those who worked hard to earn the right to capture a story and tell it to the masses. Now they are the enemy. Now they, according to this disorganized cacophony, are not worthy of the megaphone.

And your responses...

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