"An Inconvenient Tactic," Water Cooler, 6/7
The advent of elite journalism
Orville Schell's intemperate remarks about my labor union, AFSCME, display his complete lack of understanding of the power dynamics in the struggle between low-income workers and UC. Quoted in your paper that he, "find[s] it pretty unconstructive of them to be canceling graduations and things like that. I really don't understand." He vows never to contact the union again. "Nor would I think most people at the university would choose to speak to [AFSCME organizer Debra] Grabelle." I hope Schell isn't serious; I presume he likes his toilets clean and his trash hauled away.
By these comments, he not only insults the lowest-paid workers at UC, but also exposes one of the prime reasons journalism is in trouble today. Until perhaps the 1970s, most journalists were working stiffs; many weren't college graduates. Even well-known reporters came from small and medium markets. They understood their job was to watchdog the rich and powerful. To cover the abuses of power. By professionalizing journalism at elite schools, people like Schell have reinforced the disconnect of journalism from its blue-collar roots. His students come to believe they are part of the power structure and not the working class. With the advent of elite journalism, they have joined the rich and the powerful and are therefore inhibited from covering their own class, and as displayed by Schell's snooty comments, have lost all compassion with the working poor, and, in his words, "do not understand" the very real struggle over wages at his university.
Hank Chapot, UC gardener, Oakland