The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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L.A. Times columnist encourages ‘radical journalism’

Los Angeles Times media columnist Tim Rutten discussed the importance of “radical” journalism in the media with students in a forum last Tuesday at the University Student Union’s Balboa Room.

The forum was part of the Kenneth S. Devol First Amendment Forum Speakers Series, which is sponsored by the Department of Journalism in conjunction with CSUN’s student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

“Radical journalism is apart from politics, acquiring a critical mind set in the service of humane values,” Rutten said. Many journalists do not practice it today, he said.

“The muckraking era started by many radical journalists helped usher a new revolution in the media,” Rutten said.

Rutten, who is also an author and a documentary filmmaker, has been working with the L.A. Times for more than 30 years, occupying various editorial positions. He also took part in the publication’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the 1993 L.A. riots and the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

His presentation was greatly influenced by his early career connection with journalist I.F. Stone, who is considered to be one of America’s most respected journalists and someone who influenced radical journalism.

Rutten referred to Stone by his nickname “Izzy” when he cited Stone’s work.

“Izzy saw a lot things society could not even unravel,” Rutten said. He said that Stone’s welcoming demeanor gave his work a great amount of credibility.

“Go through everything he wrote and you won’t find an unnamed source,” Rutten said.

“All Governments Lie!,” a Stone biography by Myra MacPherson, was the reading project of CSUN’s journalism department this semester. After Rutten briefly talked about the book, he asked the students present to discuss their thoughts about Stone’s work.

Out of the 20-plus journalism students who attended the event, three volunteered to discuss Stone’s work. Most of the students had not read the book and were there simply for an assignment or extra credit for their classes.

“I was just intimidated by its length, and it didn’t interest me as much as it should have,” said a journalism student who attended the event.

Rutten emphasized the importance of students, especially aspiring journalists, acquiring influences outside of what they have learned in school to do their work.

“You are set out in the real world to explore ideas,” he said. In terms of a proper reporting demeanor, Rutten gave simple advice to journalism students.

“Take two pens, and take a piss whenever you can,” he said. “There are no guidelines in discovering an innovative twist to a story.”

Junior journalism student Erin Holmes asked Rutten’s opinion about the various political satire shows such as Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” and Nancy Grace’s self-titled show on CNN during the discussion.

“I don’t consider them as radicals, I just see them as opportunists,” Rutten said.

He said that hosts such as Stewart and Grace merely use political agendas as a catalyst for entertainment purposes.

“Media networks have been a malevolent cause to journalism,” Rutten said.

He also shared his thoughts on the media’s coverage of the Iraq War when senior journalism student Nadia Osborn brought up the subject during the discussion.

“(The media) are afraid to question the consensus,” Rutten said. He said that the media are too focused in making the Iraq war as abomination for society.

“A journalist’s approach to news is completely antagonistic, not complimentary,” Rutten said about the struggles journalists experience in their search for a compelling story perspective.

He said that the expanding world of technology will provide greater opportunities for radical journalism to expand.

“Information is out there more than ever through TV, internet and radio,” Rutten said. “You just have to get off your seat and go get it.”

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