Page 2: The future of journalism
Sheet reporter Angela Evans has taken a brief leave of absence to pursue a foreign correspondence opportunity in Egypt. This is her first dispatch:
I’ve loved the written word ever since I was a little girl. I used to spend hours pouring over books and relishing the writing assignments I was given in school. I took it more seriously in college, and after, I dreamed of writing for a living. But I never could grasp what such a career would look like.
All I wanted to do was connect with people. Fresh out of college in 2006, I took a tutoring job that led me to Mammoth, where I quickly settled into the mountain community, working and playing through the changing seasons. In my pursuit of connection, I started a blog, publishing my ideas for a wider audience.
I came to The Sheet ten months ago with this passion for writing, but no formal journalism experience. I quickly found myself engaged in the human story by communicating bits and pieces of it to others through published news stories.
I have witnessed first hand the influence of writing on our local community— not just through my own writing, but also through that of my co-workers, various op/ed authors, and even The Mammoth Times.
The experience of working for The Sheet has led me to consider the impact of journalism on society, culture, politics, and government— locally and in a larger, global context.
Journalism has taught me that reporters are given this power, the “power of the press” if you will, to shape the conversation, ideas, and opinions of the people around us.
And yet, this power is easily abused.
Through experience, I know that reporters are not infallible— we can and do make mistakes in a rush to get the story done. We can also become lazy: representing only one side of the story, mixing opinion with information, and regurgitating government or agency information without taking the time to evaluate it.
I recently began asking myself two simple questions: Where is journalism heading?, and Do I want to follow it?
I began my search by reconnecting with a friend from college currently living in Cairo. He is Egyptian-American and has been working as a journalist for the past ten years for a wide range of local and international news outlets.
After asking my questions, I was first surprised, then enticed, by his response: “Come to Cairo.”
Egypt is currently at a crossroads, and is reinventing its journalistic force in unprecedented ways. After the Arab Spring in 2011, Egypt found itself in the world spotlight as the geopolitical landscape seemed to change daily. After two presidential elections, draft constitutions and multiple parliaments, the military again controls the country. And writers here have found themselves at the forefront of the future of journalism.
Back in 2006, there was only one privately-owned English language newspaper in the country, the Daily Star Egypt, which was a supplement to the International Herald Tribune. It had a wide readership among the foreigners and investors who were trickling into the country at the time.
What it provided for Egypt was rare: free access to information, opinion, and dissent uncontrolled by State Media. A by-product of the protests in Tahrir Square has been the recreation of demand for independent, free-thinking expression.
And it is beginning to emerge.
But not without a cost.
Arrest and imprisonment remain very real threats to many journalists, as well as most civilians. Multiple domestic and foreign journalists are currently in prison, facing life sentences, while many attempts at independent media have failed.
Despite these obstacles, my friend said, “journalism is by no means a dying profession. It’s thriving, if anything.” He presented me with an opportunity to experience this reinvention of journalism that I couldn’t refuse.
I bought a ticket, took time off from work, and landed in Cairo a month later.
In the brief time since my arrival, I have been introduced to a handful of journalists around the age of 30 who have varied experience with internationally recognized news agencies.
Many of them have had near-death experiences and have been threatened in their attempts to tell the story of modern day Egypt. And yet, they persist.
Through conversations with them, I have quickly realized that journalism is essential because “it controls the discourse,” as my friend said. It continues to grow and evolve, changing with the cultural and political landscapes of our time, but remaining essential nevertheless.
Ernest Hemingway, who started his career as a journalist, once said, “As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand.” This is a challenge to go above and beyond, to follow up on every lead, to face rejection and continue on despite past errors.
I still have a lot to learn, but from what I’ve seen and heard so far, I am encouraged by the direction journalism is heading. Its story, in Egypt and around the world, is far from over.
Odds and Ends …
From Mammoth Police … “There have been some informal fund raising efforts to assist Becki Dempsey’s (recently killed in a motorcycle accident on Meridian Blvd. in Mammoth) family with funeral arrangements. A secure fundraising site has been established in Becki’s name by Sarah Gibbons, her friend and former roommate. Donations can be made by going to “Gofundme.com” and going to the link to “For the family of Becki Dempsey.” Becki’s mother, Karen Dempsey, has confirmed that this site was established to support Becki’s family.”
From Tuesday’s Mono County Board of Supervisors meeting … Bob Musil, who was defeated by Barry Beck in his electoral bid to become Mono County Assessor in June, was awarded a nice consolation prize this week. He was hired as the new Mono County Clerk-Recorder, replacing the departed Lynda Roberts, who left to take a smiliar position in Marin County. Shannon Kendall was promoted to become Musil’s assistant.
And from Wednesday’s Council meeting … Mammoth Lakes Tourism’s Exec. Director John Urdi provided an annual state of the tourism union address.
Addressing the banking of TBID during the winter, rather than spending it on advertising: “Nothing could have made a big impact last winter, absolutely nothing. We put the [TBID] money in the bank, and this summer was the first beneficiary,” said Urdi. “We could have spent $10 million [this winter] and not moved the dial,” he continued. “People were saying we should promote stand up paddle-boarding in January, but there’s no way we’re going to do that.”