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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Thank Goodness for the "Declinists"

Opponents of California's high-speed rail program have been dubbed "declinists" by Gov. Jerry Brown and his Democrat allies in Sacramento and elsewhere. The moniker is meant to portray those critics, many of them on the Peninsula, as unthinking and uninspired neanderthals who prefer to see the state slip and slide down the economic pecking order. Frankly, if you care to gaze at the big picture, the declinists are actually trying to wave a caution flag at the direction California is taking, or at least slow down the inexorable fall. Let's get real here. California is a big-time mess. Its budget is in constant deficit, its population is sharply divided between the wealthy and the needy (and the legal and the illegal), its unfunded, long-term public pension responsibilities are crippling and the business climate is, to say the least, less than welcoming. Brown's fast-train foes are seeking to do him a favor. They are attempting to save him (and his profligate  supporters) from himself. "Declinists?" "Realists" would be more like it.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Who's Really a Journalist Anymore?

It's a touchy subject. In today's world of instant communication, who, precisely, is really a journalist anymore? Twitter, Skype, cellphone cameras, e-mail, blogs, you name it, are all perfectly suited for anyone wishing to record an event, report, opine and disseminate stuff worldwide in an instant. So who needs a professional journalism training program? Maybe that's one big reason for the demise of the College of San Mateo's set of journalism courses (plagued by low enrollment), along with the abrupt retirement of their instructor, this month. But there's a flaw in that logic. Any writer, photographer, film-maker, reporter, page-designer and the like needs an editor, an experienced man or woman to monitor and shepherd ideas and raw material to a polished conclusion that's appropriate for public consumption. Good editors are like gold. They are indispensable. It's their job to make authors and journalists better, to guide and protect them in their work. Typically, they do so in grand and relatively thankless obscurity. With cutbacks savaging the editing ranks at newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations, websites and associated endeavors, it's getting increasingly hard to make the case for this important craft. The bean-counters simply don't see much value in it. And that's truly a sad state of affairs. In the process, quality work is becoming a rare commodity indeed.