When a journalist tells a group of people that it is better to read something other than news, they perk up and take notice.
That is what Roger Rosenblatt, editor-at-large for Life magazine and former editor of U.S. News and World Report, told students at a Brigham Young University assembly on Tuesday. It may be more beneficial to read poetry, history and fiction, he said."It all has to do with the news anyway," Rosenblatt said. "You'll understand the news and the world around you better."
In a question-and-answer session following his speech, Rosenblatt said this desire to expand intellectual visions cannot always be taught.
"A teacher can only do so much; this feeling must be cultivated within the student," he said.
There has been criticism that teenagers today consciously turn off the news and do not read newspapers, as one BYU student freely admitted he had done.
"It is a very understandable situation," Rosenblatt said. And the blame cannot always be placed on the teenager; maybe the journalists need to upgrade their products and focus it better toward the audience.
Rosenblatt, who began his journalistic career as a literary editor for the New Republic magazine, said journalism should be an art that "touches the soul of an individual, the soul of a culture and the soul of a nation."
Journalism that does not make someone hurt or cry out, or at least see things in a different light, needs to be improved, Rosenblatt said.
He told of a homeless man in a New York subway who was killed when he lunged toward a man with a 3-year-old boy and the father acted in self-defense, feeling he was trying to protect his son. The man was never taken to court.
"If you think the story stops there, you are mistaken," Rosenblatt said. The real story was the outrage of the people of New York, who could relate to the man protecting his son but who also felt guilty for the death of the homeless man.
To bring things closer to Utah, Rosenblatt said the real story of the Watkins family, whose son Brian was killed in early September in a New York subway station, was that they put aside their personal grief.
"They made the situation a public good instead," he said. "That is the story that people will remember."
Rosenblatt discussed his seven rules of good journalism.
1. "Be out of it," he said. Don't focus so tightly on a story that other things are missed.
2. Be slow and watch for the real story.
3. Write "dead stories or let stories appear finished before you start to write them."
4. Make guesses.
5. Stay away from the point everyone else is focusing on.
6. Ask questions about everything people say.
7. Keep the mystery and the excitement of the story alive for the readers.
Rosenblatt also said readers have the responsibility to look for those stories that touch them and affect their lives.
"Good journalism can change people's lives and help them improve themselves," he said.