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by Kalamalama staff

A. “History is the lies of the victors.” - Napoleon

B. “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” - George Santayana

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 journalism instructor.

“ 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 this spring.
“ 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 ago?

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 jwindrow@campus.hpu.edu.

 

 

 

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