I’m delighted to report that the St. Louis Writer’s Guild has asked me to talk to them about how to portray journalists in fiction.
This is pretty much my biggest soapbox, as you know if you’ve been following me for any length of time. The Thesis That Will Not Die is focused on journalists’ representation in film, ranging from Spotlight to Die Hard, under the cultivation theory of media consumption. Like most academic theories, it uses convoluted language to explain that which is patently obvious: watching media that portrays a group negatively leads to negative impressions of that group. Representation matters.
I’ve done this kind of talk before, usually to pop culture convention panels where we discuss how the movies have mangled us. I haven’t done it for a group solely comprised of writers before, and I’m quite happy for the opportunity. I’ve said many times at cons and writing panels: If you’ve got a journalist in your story, for the sake of Edward R. Murrow, talk to a journalist. You wouldn’t write a brain surgeon or a police officer or a deep-sea explorer without doing research; don’t assume that you know how journalism works because you’ve read the news.
At any rate, I’m looking forward to this opportunity, and thank the Writer’s Guild for inviting me. I’m not sure if it’s open to the general public or only Guild members, but I’ll be sure to let y’all know.
They already warned me it won’t work. I hope they’re wrong.
I’ve always wanted to play with Magnetic Poetry, those funky word-magnets that have remained popular long past the deaths of similar fads. I’m a words person by trade, and the idea of jumbling up random words to form beauty appeals to me.
Problem: My fridge is taken. It’s been our family tradition since before we were a family to buy a magnet whenever we go somewhere or do something fun, and thus the vast majority of the fridge surface is covered with magnets ranging from St. Louis to Jamaica to Disney World to San Francisco to Baltimore to … you get the picture. And there’s really no other surface in the house with enough metal to do Magnetic Poetry.
Surprise. My office door at the university is METAL.
I received two packs of Magnetic Poetry for Christmas: “Photography” and “Nasty Woman.” (Both from my darling husband, who knows me much too well.) I had won a “Coffee” pack a year or two ago, still in the box as I hunted for metal surfaces.
So the menfolk and I trooped over to the campus this week, and now my office door has WORDS. (Along with my shiny new kettle and French press, because COFFEE.) On both sides of the door!
They already warned me. Someone’s tried to do this before, and the students put awful stuff all over the door and they made the professor take it down. I did remove the word “pussy” from the “Nasty Woman” kit, if only because some will consider it offensive and others will use it as an excuse to put up nastiness. We have enough of that on the internet, don’t we?
My hallway is in the lower basement, adjacent to the radio station and the music department with a few IT techs. They seem like friendly, nice kids, and tend to wave and say hi as they pass my open door. (At first, it was a series of double-takes, since no one knew that there was actually an office in there. “I thought this was storage,” said one building service worker.)
I’m interested to see what poetical arrangements might appear on my door. I have mixtures on both sides, and if I can scrounge together a few more bucks, I might add the “College” and “Book Lover” kits, which will probably succeed in covering both sides of the door completely.
I’m sure someone might put something nasty on it, and I’ll break that up as I need to. Someone might even steal my words. Jim was unhappy with that idea. He bought them as a gift, after all.
But this is a school with a tradition of friendly self-expression. The Rock stands in the center of the quad, and has been painted over time and time again as someone has something they want to declare. (An actual rock, not Duane Johnson, though he’s welcome to drop by anytime.) Fraternity symbols are popular, along with organizations and causes and the occasional sad RIP. And yes, they’ve had a moment or two of unpleasantness on the Rock, which is quickly painted over and excoriated by the campus community.
What will the passers-by leave on my door? What funky phrases might I find in a moment of meditation? Beauty or meanness? Juvenile humor or moments of clarity?