James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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Lost in America–or at least in two cities

Posted by James McPherson on January 30, 2013

Though at least one major political party seem to be wandering aimlessly, I wasn’t ever actually completely “lost” during a just-completed 18-day trip to New York and Washington, D.C., with a dozen students (see the class blog here). But do I lack a great sense of direction and don’t use a smart phone, and so rely heavily (if not always well) on maps–as some of my students humorously chronicled in the video below.

I will note that we visited approximately 20 media-related sites in the two cities, and found our way to each meeting with time to spare. On the other  hand, I guess the video may provide some support for the common but nutty claim that liberal professors are leading students astray.

I’m fortunate to work in a university that values off-campus study, and have been lucky enough to coordinate two of my last three every-other-year study programs with presidential inaugurations. To be sure, there were a lot fewer people in Washington this year than four years ago–but it was interesting to see the shift in crowds from the Obama supporters there for the Inauguration at the beginning of the week to the people who came for the annual “March for Life” at the end of the week.

Demonstrating that political views are not black and white in America, at least one of my students attended both the inauguration and the march. I avoided both, and though I may disagree with the student’s politics, as a fan of peaceful political activism I commend her decision. Though students sometimes disappoint me, they far more often make me proud to be associated with them.

This year’s group had the added benefit of sharing a hostel with Wiley Drake, a somewhat pitiful “pastor” who earned some degree of notoriety a few years ago by praying for President Obama’s death. A birther who claims Osama bin Laden died in 2007 and who ran for president himself last year, Wiley has an Internet radio/TV show that he broadcasts (poorly) from wherever he happens to be–including from the hostel dining room.

Frankly, my students would do a better job of broadcasting than Drake does, and would generally make more sense. Even if they keep making the mistake of thinking I know where we are going.

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12 Responses to “Lost in America–or at least in two cities”

  1. Reuel said

    Good show old chap. Did you visit Fox News? Yeah with a smart phone and GPS navigator the old paper maps will soon become collectors items. Thank you for giving the “Right for Life” group attention, it seems the Obama steam Media(OSM) ignored them but use a close up lens with wide angle lens for the apposing view on life. As we don’t agree on most, I do agree you have secured my feeling that not all Liberal Professors are teaching with a agenda.

  2. James McPherson said

    Thanks, Reuel. And while I would never claim to be unbiased, I do think it’s important to give students a wide range of perspectives (and for Americans in general to seek a wide range).

    We haven’t been able to visit Fox News. I’ve tried, but like a lot of other places they weren’t willing–or at least I haven’t been able to find the right executive assistant to arrange it. The same has been true at NBC, CBS, ABC and al-Jazeera Television.

    We did visit with the editors of Regnery Publishing and Human Events magazine–along with the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, C-SPAN, PBS, ProPublica, the New York Times graphics section, the National Association of Broadcasters, the Smoking Gun, the Pew Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Columbia Journalism Review, the Newseum, and several other sites.

    And my wife and I had dinner with Eleanor Clift last Saturday, so you know my liberal bias is intact, . :-) (She and I were on a panel together a few years ago, and afterward she and my wife hit it off over a group dinner). While we were there Saturday, one of my least-favorite liberals–Chris Matthews–stopped by the table to say hello.

    All in all, a great trip–and I’m very happy to be home. I hope all is well with you and yours.

  3. Leonard Oakland said

    Jim– I’m glad your experience was so rich, and that a dozen Whitworthians had the chance to travel to DC with you. As a lover of paper maps (and old-fashioned guidebooks) and a sometime leader of student groups, I understand and sympathize.
    You indicated that you visited PBS: does that mean NPR? I should have tried to find a connection for you if you wanted to visit there (as I did 9 years ago when an alum set me up to meet Corey Flintoff, who was the soul of welcoming).
    Looking to see you around campus. Cheers! Leonard

  4. James McPherson said

    Leonard, I know you’ve taken students all over Europe, and I suspect you never get lost. We have gone to NPR in the past, but I didn’t try this time–partly because my own contact there left (so I’d appreciate yours, if you have one, for next time), partly because we hit WNET in NY and PBS in DC and i didn’t want to overdo the public broadcasting with so many other good options, and partly because since we were there during the Inauguration the schedule was condensed by a day.

    I hope you had a good Jan Term. Thanks for the comment.

  5. melfamy said

    Watching the video brought to mind a scene from U-571, wherein Harvey’s character tells Matthew McConaughey’s Capt Dahlgren, “You’re the skipper now. And the skipper always knows what to do whether he does or not. “

  6. jm said

    Great piece!

  7. James McPherson said

    Well, if looking foolish myself furthers the cause of my students’ education, I’m more than willing. Thanks, guys.

  8. SBJ, that video had me giggling! I am a map girl, so I understand the trials of traveling not using a GPS phone. That said, I do believe getting lost always adds some adventure, if not humour, to the narrative. Oh, and you don’t look fat.

  9. James McPherson said

    Thanks, Kells. I did put on a few pounds during the holidays that I’ll now try to lose again (annual cycle, it seems), and maybe my extra steps will help with that. But I’m not nearly as heavy as our bony little dimwitted proctologist friend has suggested elsewhere. :-)

    I see that Oil Can Smith is largely abandoning that site to GI Joe. I don’t blame him–now that Greg and I aren’t carrying most of the commenting load, I suspect that readership is way down (other than perhaps on the “Rule 5″ posts that have always been the biggest draw): http://therionorteline.com/2012/annual-report/

  10. Hold up, pardner! I thought I was the biggest draw. Of course, I’m very well aware of my delusions of grandeur….

    As far as M. leaving, I shall challenge him in the Words game and see if he takes my bet. I understand that the position to which he is applying would not be feasible to publicly opine on politics. Were I a screen actor, I know very well that I would keep my pie hole shut. That is the reality if you want a paycheck. You must admit, the left is the favourite, while the right is the evil red-headed step-child. Thankfully, I’m red on the head and have no fear.

    As to Augger, I thought he was an ER doctor. Is he a proctologist?

    My favourite part of your video is that you seem to get the giggles like I. Does it frighten you to think that you are the male lib version of me?? :shock:

  11. James McPherson said

    “I thought I was the biggest draw.”

    Probably. But apparently Greg commented the most often on posts, with me second. Those of you with the right to post directly won’t show up on that, though, so there are probably a few of you who would have finished ahead of Greg and me. They won’t have the “problem” of having the two of us contributing so much this year, though. :-)

    “I understand that the position to which he is applying would not be feasible to publicly opine on politics.”

    Surely even he is smart enough to know that what’s already on the Internet is there for good. I know his name is a common one, but does he really think his views will stay secret?

    And I really have no idea what kind of doc Augger is, assuming he is one at all. I was just making an assumption based on some of his favorite phrases and behaviors elsewhere–and the fact that he never bothered to correct me when I referred to him in that way.

    “Does it frighten you to think that you are the male lib version of me?”

    Nah, despite what some over on the other site would have us believe, people really aren’t all that different. And I like most of them. Glad you enjoyed the video.

  12. […] a preacher. We had a running joke that if we got found ourselves heading in the wrong direction (a not-uncommon occurrence) we’d just turn around in the parking lot of the Baptist church around the next corner. […]

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