Monday, June 22, 2009

Geography unfolding daily

A bright young geography student recently expressed surprise that I was still reading the Boston Globe, seeming honestly to believe that it has nothing worth reading. Aside from the fact that the article I was mentioning is about geography and cites yours truly and one of our BSC students, this started me to thinking about my need to help people understand the connections between newspapers and geography. Indeed, I see newspapers as fundamental to civilization as we know it.

Many people dismiss newspapers, saying that they can get their news online. The most reliable and robust online content, however, comes from newspapers. Online sources that are independent of newspapers are fine -- they contribute to a rich dialog. But they supplement and critique -- rather than replace -- professional journalists. Government and industry are held accountable by a combination of independent writers and news organizations.

Fortunately, the Newseum is now available to help me make the case. The physical Newseum is located in my hometown (Washington, DC), but its online presence is even more important. Every day, it features the covers of hundreds of papers, from Kingston to Kuala Lumpur! I know of no other way to gain insight into the geographic diversity of world views. The Newseum site also includes a memorial to those who have given their lives in the pursuit of journalism.

Newspapers are not the sole source of great journalism, by the way. I listen regularly to National Public Radio and the BBC, which together give me somewhat different perspectives on the news every day. Some journalism takes place on television still, but its professionalism -- at least in the United States -- is plummeting.

I use newspapers (primarily their online editions, of course) and radio sources (again, online versions) on a regular basis in my teaching. I also do my best to include local newspapers in my efforts to raise awareness of geographic education in our region.

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