Ward Churchill lectures about the media
I like Ward Churchill.
When he walked into my journalism class on Wednesday I could smell fire from a mile away.
Churchill’s crisp white shirt matched the white stripes in his hair, just as everything I knew about him up until meeting him was perfectly matched by his swagger.
Ward came to talk about his rather abusive relationship with the media throughout the past three years. Needless to say, he had a lot to articulate.
Enhanced by his mischievous smile and the witty banter to back it up, listening to Churchill talk was like taking part in a duel, except you forgot your arsenal. Every word from his clearly well equipped artillery is sharpened like a knife.
My mother would call him a smartass–a tall, highly publicized and irrefutable smartass. But isn’t that why we love him? That’s certainly part of it.
Ward Churchill is a man who, if nothing else, has seized our attention and caused us to think.
“When the Pope died I made (the) front page of the Rocky Mountain News,” Churchill said.
Churchill is decidedly skeptical of the media, and with good reason. The media depicts him as “the embattled professor,” a term which not only makes him a target, but also a modified noun.
What is the root of Churchill’s grapple with the media? It’s the apparent loss of integrity within the industry.
“When asked about (the concept of) American journalism, I say it would be a really good idea,” Churchill said, paraphrasing Ghandi.
Churchill began his lecture with his usual provocative remarks, the equivalent of hitting a class with a bullet. The message was dead-on: the media, Churchill said, is all about sensationalism.
He began to quiz the class about its knowledge of current events, such as their knowledge of the current economic and human rights affairs in Cuba. Our lack of knowledge, which did not go unscrutinized, was then compared to the knowledge we have of Britney’s parenting skills and Anna Nicole’s personal hygiene.
“I bet you could all tell me the color of a certain ex-Playmate’s toenail polish before she died,” Churchill said.
As his argument progressed, so did the twinkle in his eye–he was ready for the kill. He began to comment on the media coverage of JonBenet Ramsey.
“Let’s get a grip. Shirley Temple was killed. Right down the road from her, a little black girl was killed, ostensibly by her mother,” Churchill said. “You all heard about that, right? You remember the details, right?”
As the media conglomerates grow the appreciation for facts is going down the drain, and so is the sense of the concept of truth. Churchill made this reality clear.
“When’s the last time you saw Noam Chomsky on CNN?” Churchill asked.
In respect to his own relationship with the media, Churchill candidly recounted an experience he had with former Rocky Mountain News reporter Charlie Brennan.
“Charlie was interested in understanding the truth, and that’s why I was willing to work with him, ” Churchill said.
However, as the stories on Churchill were shaped and molded through the editorial process, Churchill said he terminated his relationship with the reporter. He nearly laughed at the mention of the word “fairness.” This certainly seemed to harden Churchill’s view of the media.
The result: journalism has been reduced to editorialization. And those of us who call ourselves journalists are simply sensationalists.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer emily sturges at email@example.com