(Student’s Full Name)
Gaining New Ideas from “Working the Fringes”
According to Brent Cunningham in his article, "Working the Fringes," "working the fringes isn't about advocacy but ideas" (Cunningham 2). Cunningham argues further that "working the fringes" or covering stories which are not primarily the focus of mainstream media helps to generate new ideas in response to dealing the various problems which are posed in the twenty-first century. Although this might be true to an extent, I wonder whether or not "working the fringes" will be effective in gaining the attention of a mainstream audience and inciting action as a result of this attention.
Cunningham shows how a veteran journalist, Tom Quinn of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, started covering stories related to energy security and the environment from the seventies, which exposed him to the new idea of “peak oil” (Cunningham 2). The idea of "peak oil" had been a source of debate amongst geologists and economists who did not "dispute that crude oil will eventually be scarce" (Cunningham 2). The editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer Doug Clifton noted that economic gain was not the main focus of doing a story on "peak oil' and energy alternatives (Cunningham 2). However, Clifton felt that he had "an obligation to put these issues before the public" (Cunningham 2).Moreover, Cunningham noted that the Cleveland Plain Dealer employs a special type of crusade journalism which ‘breaks down’ a large story into “small portions” through a newspaper series, at the end of which “lessons from the reporting” are reinforced and revisited (Cunningham 2). Although this is a demonstration of responsible journalism at its best, if the newspapers promoting this cover story are not sold in sufficient numbers, how will that story gain enough traction to capture the attention of the public and incite action?
I personally do not believe that Cunningham's article adequately answers this question. After all, a great story can only be read if the public is interested in reading material related to alternative energy and "peak oil" and they are willing to pay for news stories such as these, so that newspapers such as the Cleveland Plain Dealer can continue to produce stories of this standard. Although economic gain should not be the main purpose of producing a relevant news story, which would generate interesting ideas and conversation, the journalist should ensure that it captures the eye of the public with a message that the public would willing buy into, both literally and figuratively.
I am of the belief that Cunningham in his article should have explored the ways in which a journalist, who practices the type of journalism which requires her to “work the fringes,” can ensure that her stories gets the attention needed to place and keep such news stories in the mainstream. Additionally, Cunningham should have indicated how the internet through various blogging platforms, social media networks and video-sharing sites could be used to help a journalist to “work the fringes” by discovering and researching topics which are relevant within the context of a twenty-first century world. Other than these basic concerns that I have about Cunningham’s article, I was still quite pleased that I read it as I fought it quite insightful as it relates to the approach that a modern journalist must take in covering news stories. I would read a text like this one by Cunningham in the future because I found this topic not only insightful, but informative. Nevertheless, journalists, especially young inexperienced ones would most benefit from an article such as “Working the Fringes.”
Cunningham, Brent. “Working the Fringes.” Columbia Journalism Review. Columbia Journalism Review Mag., 17 Nov. 2005. Web. 3 Feb. 2014.