I’m speaking on a panel at Portland State University this morning, on the subject of media censorship. I know this is more important to me than I’d admitted until just now, because I just cut my chin, shaving, and I only do that when I’ve got something important to do where it’s important that I don’t look boyish.
The questions I’m supposed to answer are: Who controls what the public is allowed to watch, read and hear? How does media censorship occur? Why is it allowed? And so on…well, WHO THE FUCK CARES! I’m SPEAKING TO STUDENTS! I’M LIKE A FUCKING JOURNALISM PROFESSOR!
And my excitement about that, in some way, is the answer to all those questions. Media censorship doesn’t occur because there’s a guy sitting in a dark room with a black pen. It occurs because journalists are all interested in furthering our own careers, and any speech or writing we do is usually calculated to have that effect, unless we’re bloody stupid or, in my case, simply a little confused. I’m naive and arrogant enough to believe my stories and opinions are important whether or not they’re covered elsewhere.
Self-censorship is the art of offending nobody. It’s the Machiavellian skill of blending into the background, writing non-stories, until you’ve ingratiated yourself sufficiently with those in power to assume a seat at the writing table with them. In my experience, censorship in Portland takes the form of journalists falling victim to such bullying. City officials give you the impression you’d be mad to print your story. People call you despicable in corridors. Doors slam in your face. You develop a reputation as a maverick. And then, the self-doubt sets in, so you start to self-censor. You start to shut your mouth. And probably, you start to be a little more “successful.” The battle against censorship is the battle fought in every journalist’s mind, every day, against such ideas of “success.”
I should win a bloody prize for that. Meanwhile I’ll be sure to plug this blog at the meeting and watch the diagnostics on Google. It’s at 10am in the Smith Memorial Hall, if you’re interested.