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Speaker reveals press built upon strength of government, public

According to Michael Massing, the press is affected by the strength of the president and how united the public is. However, it takes a brave journalist to question the administration.

An author and New York journalist, Massing spoke last night as the 2006 Florence and Jesse Currier visiting lecturer.

Massing has come up with a theory about media professionals, explained through the title of his speech, “American Journalism Needs More Outcasts, Doubters, Non-Conformists, and Midwesterners.”

Growing up in Baltimore, Massing was originally drawn to New York for the 1964 World’s Fair. But it wasn’t until 1978 that Massing moved to New York to pursue journalism, after obtaining a degree from Harvard University.

“I feel that I’m still able to pull up a feeling of outrage,” Massing said, referring to being a “small-city” boy in New York city.

Outrage and shock were a continuous theme throughout his speech. Massing began with his shock at the exotic parts of the Midwest. This being his first time in Ohio, Massing was taken in by the massive grain silos and nuclear power plant chimneys lining the sky.

Massing believes the media often takes the side the public wants to hear. For example, before the war, the media often covered the Bush administration in a positive light. However, now that the President’s ratings and support for the war are dropping, the media tends to look at the Bush administration more objectively, he said.

Very few newspapers cover the less popular side of an issue, Massing said. To Massing, and many others, this is an outrage. There is a need for the issues to be covered in an unbiased manner.

According to Todd Brenner, a senior political science major, Massing’s address was informative.

“It was interesting, it was a good speech,” he said.

But even if someone isn’t interested in journalism, Massing incorporated personal anecdotes and political ideals that could interest anyone.

Massing has several new story ideas that he thinks someone should cover. The first is how money buys power, which creates ways to get more money, which again leads to power. Another issue that has yet to be covered in-depth are the stories of veterans returning from the war in Iraq.

However, one of the areas Massing thought would be most interesting to cover, would be how to get more young people to pay attention to the news.

Massing also said there are too many upper-middle class journalists from the east coast. The journalism world needs more diversity, not necessarily with race, but also with religion and class. The more diverse journalists need to come out with the issues that others are afraid to cover.

“I think that we’re in an exciting period. I feel that outcasts’, doubters’, non-conformists’ and midwesterners’ ideas will prevail,” he said.

Massing has worked on several publications, including The New Yorker, The Washington Times and The Los Angeles Times. He has also won several journalism awards such as the Mongerson Prize for Investigative Reporting on the News and an Alicia Patterson journalism fellowship. In addition to “Now They Tell Us,” a collection of articles about the coverage of the war in Iraq and “The Fix,” a study of the United State’s war on drugs, Massing is currently working on a book about the Protestant Reformation.

Journalism professor Tori Ekstrand shed light on why Massing was chosen as this year’s speaker.

“[Massing] is one of those people who’s a watchdog of the press,” she said.

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