Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Il Mio Manifesto (hey, at least they're better than New Year's resolutions!)

In the last few days I have had discussions with old pals from the Fourth Estate. It is doing well and the jewels and minks will only be sold to those of fine breeding, namely Roger Ailes. They have informed me that my plight in academia is a grim one: namely research can only get a privileged few very far, because most of the time faculty is desperately trying hammer one of its futile proposals for research down a foundation's throat. At then the thankless teaching load, especially for younger faculty, includes such courses as the following three-credit masterpiece: FYC 4003 Family Financial Management.

I harken back to the old aphorism that the ass is leaner on the other hide, though, because when I was set to plunge myself into the thankless anonymity of writing for the Palatka Daily News or assistant editor of Fleet Owner Magazine I would have died to be an academic, in part because it didn't look like I would be writing copy for the NY Times or broadcasting for the BBC any time soon.

So what I suppose I've always hankered for is the possibility of working in the jungles and godforsaken veldt while at once capturing something uniquely narrative. I'm nowhere near that now, but I've got the seed of an idea.

Many efforts have been made to marry journalism with academia in the past, and most of them haven't been that successful. Journalism departments typify this perhaps the most, attempting to create scholarship and scholars out of something which is by it's very nature not a scholarly process. But the same can be said for the news media, which for whatever reason seems to think that reporters can become experts on all range of subject matters despite their acute focus on only the most pertinent details to a contemporary story. This is most egregious when a cable news channel will put on the TV some cockamamie fool who can pronounce mujahideen but whose credentials nor more recommend them as a Middle East expert to CNN than to CVS.

So I've decided to combine my work in both disciplines, and specifically my work on resilience theory and natural hazards, to my ongoing sensibilities as a storyteller, for toxic effect. The project is protean, the aim ephemeral, the desire simple: try something that has never been done before, either because there's no audience or because it's too damn complicated.

In a sense, this is a call to arms on my part. I want to actually challenge myself and others to see if a utilization of blogs and other multimedia can move the material in question, in this case probably resiliency work in southeastern Mexico, or whether it is doomed to just be conjunctive. I've seen what's out there, and as a result I wish to see what I can modify myself and put intro practice. Hopefully it will be something grand, but if it fails to be anything more than an effort that mirrors this self-promoter, then I want nothing of it.

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