One of the best things about the aging process is it brings a much improved perspective about life and other things we lacked when we were younger.

At our house, over the last several years, we’ve been dealing with some health issues not uncommon when you grow more rings on your trunk. So far, we’ve won more battles than we’ve lost.

At eight decades plus six, having dealt with issues that could’ve ended life, it’s not uncommon to reflect on where you are and how you got there. Long memory can make small things that happened many years ago seem more important than you realized back then. Conversely, it can make things that happened 70 years ago, which seemed life-ending at the time, hard to remember. Ah, teenage angst.

Recently, long memory and tradition combined to cause me some of that angst with what passes for “informed media” these days. We live in the Portland “metro area.” Half a dozen TV stations, 14+ radio and several newspapers online.

But news? NEWS?

A year ago last December 7th, we were living in the Phoenix area with many more media outlets. Not a word about the 81st year commemoration of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Not one word! And, in that media market, there’s a very large military base and many thousands of retired military.

Before that disappointing ignorance of our national history, there was another. November 23, 1963. The day John Kennedy was assassinated. Not a word. Not one word!

Now, I admit, to the child practitioners of what passes for media these days, both events were likely “ancient history.” Things learned about in their teens along with the Civil War and Viet Nam. Just something “back there.”

Well, the difference is there are still a lot of us old folk around who lived through Pearl Harbor and the Kennedy assassination. We remember where we were, who we were with and how shocked we were at those times. The killing of nearly three-thousand military and civilians on a single Hawaiian Sunday morning and the murder of a president are indelibly preserved in the minds of millions of us. They’re not “back there.” Their details are not “ancient history.” Each incident still evokes sadness and anger. Neither has been relegated to remote, dusty files. Not for us.

One of the failures of today’s simplistic journalism is the rabid desire for the new, the different, the “first-with-what’s-next” syndrome – the surface treatment of stories. Hard news – whether today’s details or those of significant national history – need more attention than it gets. Thanks to the hiring of media “consultants,” who are short on hard news knowledge and long on fancy “likeability” polling, news value is often replaced by news fluff.

I’ve long criticized university journalism schools as the wrong place to develop a good reporter. Any damned fool can be taught to write. What’s missing in most “J” school grads is something that can’t be taught. A trait ALL really successful media folks share. Curiosity. You show me a curious person and I’ll show you someone that can learn to write. Curiosity first. Writing second.

As our nation skews to a preponderance of other cultures, other religions, other national histories, it will be even more important for news people to be grounded in those new realities. Our country is becoming more than just the ancestors of the Caucasian Pilgrims. We’re becoming a human “Joseph’s coat” of many colors, languages and ethnic backgrounds. We’ll no longer be a majority of any particular race but rather a mix of many. And that’s what this country is about.

For a top notch, professional journalist/reporter in the future, this new reality will present some challenges. One will be the need to really KNOW these new Americans. Their social and political histories. Their important cultural and religious traditions. What issues and needs are – or were – important. Whatever is important to them will need to be important to the people who report on their lives. And to the rest of us.

These new realities – these new demands – won’t be served by a media that can’t remember JFK’s murder and acknowledge it appropriately. They won’t be served by ignoring the Japanese attacks that started a world war in which hundreds of thousands died and millions more were involved and let the date go by unnoticed. Or September 11, 2001. Viet Nam. Desert Storm. Sandy Hook. Nashville.

The new reality will be the media will have to know each of the different strains that’ll make up this demographically changed America. That’ll require more knowledge of the dates, names and places important to their audience. All will have to deal with a broader scope of viewer/reader interests if the media itself is to remain relevant.

As long as a great many people are still alive who were living when these major events happened, those moments won’t be “ancient history.” They’ll be remembered – personally felt – like the national and life changing events they were.

It is – and will be – the media’s job to remember, too.

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