Mar 5, 2002
The News About the News Last night at Duke University’s Sanford Institute of Public Policy (the same place we saw Hafez al-Mirazi last week), Washington Post editors Leonard Downie, Jr., and Robert Kaiser spoke about their new book. This was an inspiring talk for me to hear, but also a challenging one.
”American journalism produced its finest journalism in the aftermath of September 11th,” said Downie. And the best of that journalism is getting better, he said, because journalists are better educated and better trained today. That spoke directly to me; last Saturday I interviewed with a committee at the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication. I applied earlier this year to enter the school’s medical journalism program, and now I’m a finalist for a Roy Park Fellowship that will pay for that education. The committee asked me point-blank why, with my extensive experience as a writer, editor and journalist, I’d want to spend two years in school. I answered that the knowledge I desperately want to acquire (an understanding of the fundamentals of epidemiology, and specific knowledge about infectious diseases) can be had from UNC and the surrounding universities (such as Duke and NC State). Of course, like much of the other information I’ve gleaned in my life, I could certainly read on my own and chat up people knowledgeable about these topics. ”Medical coverage is one of those happy areas,” said Downie. ”Medical reporters are no longer novices. They often develop expertise in the area they cover.”
And that’s what I’m after: expertise. I’m nagged, though, by a persistent doubt that my career is foundering. I want so much to be working full time for a magazine, and continuously improving my reporting and writing. And then I always land at the same spot: I am working full time, as a father to little Anna, and this experience is precious. (How many other professional journalists take sabbaticals to be with their young children? I’m doing it early. Perhaps, since I’m getting older, I’m feeling an urgency to speed toward my career goal. My 10-year college reunion is to be this summer, and I see my 35th birthday in a few years. Maybe, though, I’m focusing too far ahead.
I wrote those words earlier in the day, and now it’s late at night and I’m home after a wonderful, in-the-moment day. I started the morning with tea and a chocolate croissant (naturally) at the Weaver Street Market cafe. After reading the NY Times and Wall Street Journal and writing a bit of my own, I walked to a used books shop. It was a cold day, but sunny, and I walked toward home and stopped into Chilango for a plate of authentic Mexican food. Later in the day, I went to campus to see an Iranian film (Gabbeh, by Mohsen Makhmalbaf), then had a glass of strong Turkish tea at the Silk Road Tea House. I’m ending the day in a spirit of wonder—there’s so much to see and do and taste and read today and tomorrow. Carpe diem.
Anton Zuiker ☄
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