By Steve Woodward
Growing up in Fairfax County, Virginia, near our Nation’s Capitol, every day a new edition of The Washington Post arrived at the end of the driveway. And on afternoons we received The Washington Star, which later became the Star-News.
I was obsessed with these newspapers. At the top left of the Post‘s front page the number of sections and pages comprising any given edition was indicated. A row of stars informed you which edition you were reading. The more stars, the later the edition. Back then, morning newspaper printing presses began running around 8 p.m. and continued into the wee hours of the next day.
I eagerly read columns by political pundits like Jimmy Breslin and Haynes Johnson, and sports writers including the legend of that era, Shirley Povich, with little comprehension. But I read them all, nonetheless, and loved the ink rubbing off on my fingers. During a summer vacation, I read a book — on my own without intervention by a parent — entitled, “The Boys of Summer”, by Roger Kahn. It chronicles Kahn’s experiences as a junior reporter, in his early 20s, covering the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team in the early-1950s.
This was an era in which a working class kid could go to work as a flunky in a newsroom and come out on the other side as a reporter or columnist. Trained on the job. No college diploma was required (although Kahn attended New York University). The training defaulted to a simple premise: Observe, inquire, report. Reading Kahn’s book influenced my life. I would become a sports journalist in high school, a campus newspaper editor as a college student and, in 1982, a hired newspaper staff member.
I cherish these memories, dating back to “publishing a newspaper” during late 1960s boyhood, hand written on notebook paper and “delivered” to the neighbors, my earliest attempt to produce content.
From there I evolved into a “typist” who generated content banging on the keys of a noisy contraption, an Underwood. It was a manual typewriter, the gold standard of its era. It was my first “desktop”. It certainly was not portable. It was as indestructible as its spool of ink ribbon was fragile.
Something about a typewriter kept its operator honest. Each keystroke was a commitment. Today, our words appear on screens as we write, editing themselves on the fly as technology spell-checks our words and corrects grammar. Our mooring to reality constantly is distracted by the meta-verse and its cesspool of parallel realities. It as if we type one thing and, before we know it, something more nuanced, less true to ourselves, flashes before our eyes. The passage before us suddenly has been sanitized and censored by Microsoft or Apple
But we are not defenseless against these perils. Artificial intelligence has not come for our brains — yet.
My cherished memories of journalism before it died are fading. There is a silver lining, though. We have reverted back to the days of Roger Kahn’s youth in Brooklyn, New York. Like Kahn, we are instinctual journalists. The trained, Ivy League journalists have prostituted themselves so completely that they nearly are extinct, their credibility lost and their reputations shattered.
Rapidly advancing technology has many downsides, as we well know. But a huge upside is that emboldened Americans have more opportunities to learn and become informed, and to share what we learn via thoughtful analysis and searing commentary.
The point is we had better get started. But it’s overwhelming, you say. Where do I begin? One place is alternate digital media. Do a daily deep dive at Citizen Free Press, the leading aggregator of content for conservatives. Clicking links at CFP will send you hurtling into a galaxy of content producers, including some ranking among the most virulent haters of the MAGA movement. That’s OK. It is vitally important to know what lies and distortions they are circulating.
Along with researching, posting comments to news sites and blogs is extremely liberating but it also makes a difference. We’ve all known people who actually call their elected officials, or gallantly walk door to door amid campaigning season, but are there ever enough of them? Never. And there never can be enough comments posted, links shared or blogs published. These in fact are more powerful acts of volunteerism than the aforementioned.
You do not have to be William Buckley to write and share your writing using a basic blog platform such as WordPress (home of RESOLVE), or its no-frills cousin, BlogSpot, or Blogger. You do not have to be Rush Limbaugh to launch an audio or video podcast on a web-based platform such as Riverside or BuzzSprout.
Do we really believe that every founding father, every framer of our Constitution, was bursting with confidence, gifted with oratory brilliance or born natural authors? Of course not. But they met the moment. They rose to the occasion, knowing their reputations, their families and their finances would come under siege.
This is our moment. Any number of famous quotations by Lincoln, or Eisenhower, or Patton, or Reagan come to mind, but a German-born writer, perhaps the greatest of the 16th and 17th centuries, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, said it well.
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”