Saturday, September 08, 2018

Learning to Accept and to Learn from Criticism is a Lifelong Journey

Interesting Folio Weekly article by Ms. Hassani Malone, a Flagler College journalism student.

I sure wish Flagler College would empower its talented journalism students to use WFCF, Flagler College "Radio with a Reason" for news and discussion programs.

WFCF exchews news.  Why?  But the City of St. Augustine hosts a half-hour radio program every Wednesday and Saturday?  Why?  Flagler College students might wish to contact President Joe Joyner to discuss it.  Forbidding journalism on a college radio station is contrary to the genius of a free people.

How cool it is to live in an increasingly hip college town, where diverse voices like Ms. Malone and Mayor Shaver help each other think and do our best.

The whole world is watching what we do here, on issues from climate change to discrimination.

Mayor Shaver is a respected leader on climate change and ocean level rise.

Last year, Ms. Malone organized our community when a restaurant employee appeared in the window in blackface on Halloween, raising our consciousness in a few hours.

At the end of the day, both Ms. Malone and Mayor Nancy Shaver will have learned from their shared experience.  Ms. Malone will learn tolerance, to accept criticism and to learn from mistakes.  Ditto our Mayor.

As Bill Clinton said, paraphrasing journalist and Founding Father Ben Franklin, "Our critics our friends, because we can learn from them."

Full disclosure: I never took a journalism course.  It was not taught at Georgetown in the 1970s.

But as a Georgetown School of Foreign Service undergraduate at age 21, in 1978, I won a Fund For Investigative Journalism grant.  My mission: to investigate the U.S. Tennessee Valley Authority and a Northeast Tennessee coal cartel associated with Sen. Howard Henry Baker, Jr. (later White House Chief of Staff) and Democratic Governor candidate Jacob F. Butcher (later incarcerated for bank fraud).

Howard Bray, FIJ Executive Director, told me that one conservative journalist FIJ board member almost did not vote for my grant because he was horrified with my grant proposal being ungrammatical.


My mortal grammar sin: I split at least one infinitive.  I never did it in writing again, for 40 years.   I still wince when I read or hear infinitives are being split.  I once apologized to St. Augustine PZB members when I inadvertently split one.  Thank you, James J. Kilpatrick, for criticizing me.

Full disclosure: The editor of Atlantic Monthly later responded to my query letter by writing that he had no idea what I was telling him.  Thank you for speaking out.

Writing and editing and rewriting is all about learning, lifetime.  Bigtime. After 10,000 hours on any skill, you improve.

Nothing like being editor of a little weekly newspaper in Appalachia to help you learn -- as Appalachian Observer editor, training was on the job, and included developing a thick skin.  That includes accepting criticism from public officials.

On the wall of every newsroom they should hang a sign, "No snowflakes, please."

As Jimmy Carter said in his Inaugural Address:

Let us learn together and laugh together and work together and pray together, confident that in the end we will triumph together in the right. 
The American dream endures. We must once again have full faith in our country--and in one another. I believe America can be better. We can be even stronger than before. 
Let our recent mistakes bring a resurgent commitment to the basic principles of our Nation, for we know that if we despise our own government, we have no future. We recall in special times when we have stood briefly, but magnificently, united. In those times no prize was beyond our grasp. 
But we cannot dwell upon remembered glory. We cannot afford to drift. We reject the prospect of failure or mediocrity or an inferior quality of life for any person. Our Government must at the same time be both competent and compassionate. 
We have already found a high degree of personal liberty, and we are now struggling to enhance equality of opportunity. Our commitment to human rights must be absolute, our laws fair, our national beauty preserved; the powerful must not persecute the weak, and human dignity must be enhanced. 

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