A. “History is the lies
of the victors.” - Napoleon
B. “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” -
C. “History is more or less bunk.” - Henry Ford
All of them are true some of the time, but only B is true all of the time, according
to John Windrow, The Honolulu Advertiser weekend editor and HPU’s newest
“ Which is why,” Windrow said, students “should know about
the history of American journalism.”
He was referring to COM 3910-A, the new experiemental course Windrow is teaching
“ Nowadays, American news media—ethical communicators, I like to
call them—are learning to appreciate the old Chinese curse: ‘May
you live in interesting times,’” Windrow said.
It is intensely interesting to see what is happening in media today, especially
newspapers: layoffs abound, chains are sold wholesale like pork bellies, and
broken up capriciously on the whims of Wall Street. Editors worrying about getting
their news out via the Web, or Ipods, or even cell phones? Some jobs go away,
others spring up like new wheat. Who would have seen it all just a few years
Those who know the history of media know the truth: none of this is new. Newspapers
have always been transforming themselves. Media history is driven by economics,
technology, and demographics. What’s new now is not the changes, but that
the changes are happening so rapidly.
Newspapers were once an elite, expensive medium for the privileged few. Then
they became a dirt-cheap, mass medium for the hustlers in the street and the
shoeshine boys. Then they became required reading for the bourgeoise breakfast
table, the politicos, the business community, and society dowagers. And money
and power have always been the twin engines that make it go.
“ Now newspapers are becoming something else. Who knows what? I sure don’t,” said
Windrow, who added that knowing the patterns of history can help people adjust
and maybe even profit from the changes.
“ I know what they have been,” Windrow said, “and I think that
gives us all a good hunch at what they will become.
“ There will always be a place for what we call mainstream, newspaper journalism,” Windrow
said. “I just don’t know how it’s going to be delivered 10
or even five years from now.”
Speaking to his journalism students, Windrow said that “We should study
the history of our trade. We all need the knowledge to put events into context.
We need that frame of reference.
“ And, it is intensely interesting, from Colonial times when people stood
on a wharf in the Massachusetts Bay Colony waiting for a ship to bring a newspaper
from England, right up to the present day when people call up the Web news on
a cell phone to make sure they aren’t ‘so five minutes ago.’
“ I invite you to take the course,” Windrow concluded. “I think
it will be fun, and interesting.”
Windrow can be reached at 687-7030 and email@example.com.