"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What's a flashbulb?

I was demonstrating a Speed Graphic in a journalism class that was going to view the movie The Public Eye. I also had a flash attachment, film backs and 4x5 negatives, showing the class how tedious it was to take photos for the press up through the mid-50s. When I demonstrated all the different steps the photog had to do to get a shot and reload, I mentioned flash bulbs. I saw blank looks.

I've learned that much of my vocabulary is often a foreign language to today's students. Today's freshmen were born in 1990. Upper classmen were about three years old then. They don't know what paste-up is. They don't know was "justified" means, they have never heard of John Milton; most of my students don't know what Watergate was. So I stopped and asked if they had heard of flashbulbs. "What do you mean you had to change bulbs," one asked.

I found some in our photo lab and brought them in. They couldn't believe it, and made fun of the fashions of the woman advertising Sylvania Blue Dot on the cover of the package.

That means I increasing have to stop and check the common, to me, words I use in my classes...they sometimes are literally like speaking Greek to these students. An example... One day, I used the word "brouhaha." Blank looks.

Such a reminder of how easy it is to become outdated, especially in journalism these days, not just in technology but in basic culture.

So it is good to get back to my roots this summer, as defacto and interim adviser of The Vista, UCO's student paper. The last time I helped produce a weekly newspaper was about 20 years ago when Sally and Don Ferrell hired me during Christmas break to help out at the Lincoln County News in Chandler. I also moonlighted about 10 years ago as a copy editor at The Oklahoman. Try to stay current.

The summer staff of the vista is a skeleton crew, and we were late on deadline by 1.5 hours on a six page issue before we sent "PDF'd" it to the Edmond Sun to be printed.. Much of the delay was my fault, helping them design pages, etc. Of course I don't know In Design, and my students are marvels at it.

I'm most proud of my students however. After I proofread the page proofs, one of them caught things I'd missed, actively using the style book. The co-editor had been out taking photos, downloaded them and save the day for a lean content issue. And the editor, after I'd cleared the paper to go, made us wait another 15 minutes as he double checked the ads and computer codes and dates, etc.

At the end of the day, I was exhausted. I love newspapers, but I don't want to work for one. But I was excited and fulfilled because I saw students who were still committed to quality journalism, even if it is a small weekly, and they don't know about flashbulbs.

Ursa th' professa'

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