Wednesday, October 13, 2010

No journalists from Kansas

Last week, as I sat nearly comatose in a waiting (and waiting) room, I rifled through a stack of weeks-old magazines. Brides--no thanks. Golf Digest--bleh. I finally found a tattered Newsweek and flipped it open. Inside was short article about the Kansas Department of Education cutting all funding for high school journalism classes.

"Earlier this month, the state’s Department of Education decided to stop funding high-school instruction in the subject. Schools are free to raise their own money, but that’s not a path officials would recommend."

Um, what? How is this not all over the news? It seems the Sunflower State has deemed journalism a "dying industry unfit for public funds." Maybe they are partly right: headlines about the profitability of newspapers and magazines aren't exactly full of good cheer. But won't we always need professional journalists to report accurate information? Or are we okay with relying on bloggers to tell us what's going on? (For heaven's sake, don't rely on ME.)

Disclosure: I was a journalism dork in high school, and although I went into advertising instead of reporting the news, my experience on the yearbook and newspaper staff helped me define myself. I was a writer. My words made it into print. Peers read my articles, and commented. Journalism was the one class that made the biggest impact on me; I'm a news junkie to this day. Two of my fellow editors *did* go onto J-school at MU and make their living as journalists even now.

I get that money is tight and institutions are pressured to cut where they can. Believe me, I sit on the board of a non-profit and witness good programs getting axed. It stinks. However, I'm guessing they still have plenty of bucks lying around for their football team and other sports programs. And wow, I can see how *that* is a booming industry for most graduates. I mean, really, if I had a dime for every professional football player who came from my high school, why, I'd dimes.

Priorities, though, right?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I'm weird when I'm writing

My goal this year is to try not to be so odd.

Let me explain. When I'm deep in a writing project, working out the details of a story can be all-consuming. So much so that tasks in the life outside my head get sacrificed. Like errands. And housework. Feeding the dog. And, once, I'm ashamed to admit, picking up the kids. I've stepped into traffic because I was writing dialogue in my thoughts. I've looked directly at people I recognize on the street and never have it register because a plot point was taking up all the space in my brain. Compartmentalizing is not my strong point.

And when I'm forced to interact with anyone after hours of writing? Forget about it. I'm sure there's a sizable contingency of moms in my daughter's class who think I'm brain addled. Conversations frequently go like this:

Normal person: "Hi, Wendy. What's going on?"

Me: (Blank stare.) I really either need to kill that character off or give him more of a purpose. I like him, though. Okay. I'll go with purpose. Wait, someone's giving me a funny look. Wake up. "Oh. What? Hi."

NP: "Um. I said, 'What's going on?' You know. 'How are you?'"

Me: "Yes. Sorry. Er, I'm okay." But what can he do? That's like a whole other subplot, and I'm probably long on subplots anyway. Hello? Why is she still looking at me? I guess I need to say something. "Oh. And how've you been?"

NP: "Fine." (Looks around for polite escape.)

This is not good.

So. I'm focusing on interpersonal skills this fall. You know, that talent that used to come so easily? I was the girl in school who had to be moved all around the classroom for chatting. A teacher once even remarked, "I'd move you next to the wall, but you'd probably talk to that, too."

I joined a writing group (in person!) I'm becoming more involved in community service (with people!) I signed up as a tour guide at my kids' school (45 whole minutes of talking per tour!)

Hopefully I can become a people-person again. At least, when I need to be.

How about you? Do you often live inside your head?