Relearning the Value of Communication
I gave myself a little injection of youth last month by taking on a job that I had very much enjoyed doing 25 years ago. It was as energizing as I remembered but also more than a bit exhausting . . . and a little dispiriting as well.
The job was to serve as a temporary adjunct professor of communications at a local college while one of its faculty members was away on maternity leave. Seemingly a lifetime ago, I had served as an adjunct at another college, teaching a couple of journalism classes over the course of 10 years or so. I had fond memories of that experience and had tossed around the idea of trying to teach again. So this seemed like a great opportunity to give it another shot without having to make any kind of major commitment.
Getting back in a college classroom — indeed, just being on college campus three days a week — was both fun and academically stimulating, just as I had hoped. And even though preparing for class was quite a bit more time consuming than I remembered or anticipated, I found myself enjoying the challenge, at least initially.
One of the classes I was teaching was Introduction to Mass Media. As you might guess, having last taught a media class more than two decades ago, getting completely up to speed on the new world of social media and rapidly changing communications technologies took more than a little work. I was hitting the books right along with my students. Fortunately, several of my students were especially social media savvy, and their contributions helped to create a more give-and-take, interactive environment for the class.
As the class moved along, we discussed pertinent but increasingly complex hot button topics like journalistic ethics and personal, cultural and media biases. As part of the process, each day students were challenged to take note of relevant mass media-related news going on in the world and share it with the class. And while many of the discussions were good ones, I often came away from class disheartened. A key thread through all the discussions was that despite having the greatest communications tools in the history of mankind at our disposal, it is clear that as a society, we are experiencing a serious failure to communicate. Instead of breaking down barriers, our newfound abilities to interact with virtually anyone and everyone seems to be causing only greater personal and social divisions. And unfortunately, I see it getting worse, not better.
Here at West Suburban Living, however, our goal will be to continue to build community and to celebrate the positive. And you’d be hard pressed to find a better example of that then our annual Best of the West reader survey results on page 39, where we celebrate more than 80 west suburban
superlatives. We hope you enjoy the article and the rest of this issue and, as always, thanks for being a reader.