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Losing our religion (and journalism)

by Mara Shapshay

When I was a little girl I worshipped Lois Lane. Not the 50’s version Lois Lane but the 1978 Margot Kidder version from the movie Superman with Christopher Reeve. I was so inspired by Margot that I got bangs and decided to become a reporter just like her. I was also determined to fall in love with a superhero, but that is a totally different article.

At 8 years old I became the Lois Lane of 104 Gleazen Lane, which was the address of my house in Wayland, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. I created my own newspaper for my family, circulation 4 people. I made up stories and even drew pictures. My cat, Kitzle, had her own page and I reported on my sister’s tea parties. Especially disturbing was one front-page story about a girl that was murdered in my town . . . I actually drew a picture of her battered body. Don’t worry, my parents sent me to therapy.

My point is that I idolized reporters and was enthralled by traditional media. Watching David Brinkley with my parents at dinnertime was a religious experience. Go with me here on this metaphor, but I believe traditional media is like the old religions and digital media is like spirituality.

Back when I was growing up, there were three major networks, NBC, CBS and ABC. To me, the three major networks represented the three major religions (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) and the news anchors were our rabbis and priests.

Newspapers like The New York Times, The Boston Globe and the Washington Post were like the Old Testament. What was printed in those newspapers was the good word.

As I grew older I began to feel more and more stifled by my strict, not so female friendly, Orthodox-Jewish religion as well as the lack of original thought and programming choices in traditional media. For a free thinking, irreverent, Jewish broad, I wanted more than what was being offered.

Enter the 2000’s and the digital age which welcomed a plethora of sites and opinions. The rigid rules of traditional/objective journalism went away and were replaced with writing and reporting full of emotion and passion. In my opinion the very definition of spirituality is passion, freedom, fluidity and meaning and that is what the digital age brought.

I consider myself a seeker and sought to find my own relationship with a higher power. So I tried everything from meditating to sweat lodges to rock climbing. The Internet offered me the same countless amount of options. There are literally thousands upon thousands of news sites that broadcast digitally onto our phones, tablets or computers.

I argue that some of the reasons why we have abandoned traditional journalism are that we’ve become sick of rules and have become less religious.

In a survey by LifeWay Christian Resources, of 1,200 18- to 29-year-olds, 72% say they’re “really more spiritual than religious.”

Cathy Lynn Grossman in a USA Today article about the “Millennial generation” says, “Most young adults today don’t pray, don’t worship and don’t read the Bible. The Millennial generation will see churches closing as quickly as GM dealerships.”

Newspapers are also closing their doors like GM dealerships. Why read a physical paper with its long articles when you can read posts on the Internet that are shorter, more to the point and are accessible to you 24 hours a day?

We also have a voice and something to say. Instead of being preached to by a few select, Ivy League educated reporters who had the monopoly on the news, now we can hear from everyone. A lot of the writing is very good too.

We’re going through a revolution. Clay Shirky says in his article, “Newspapers and Thinking The Unthinkable,” “When someone demands to know how we are going to replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution. They are demanding to be told that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place.”

In my opinion, the old systems (traditional media and religion) aren’t working for most Americans anymore so I believe it’s up to each of us to find our own way (digital media and spirituality). Take me for example, I still practice Judaism but I also practice Buddhism and some Hinduism. I blog and visit whatever news sites I want to because I have the freedom of choice today. If traditional journalism and religion can find a way to be flexible in this ever-changing landscape, then they may have a chance to survive.

I still aspire to be Lois Lane and I still have Margot Kidder bangs but now I crusade for truth by blogging on the Internet and not drawing battered bodies in my 104 Gleazen Lane newspaper.

Mara Shapshay

About Mara Shapshay

Mara Shapshay is a writer/comedian/performer who has a BFA from NYU Film and an MFA from the American Film Institute. She is a stand-up comic who performs regularly at The Comedy Store, Improv, Laugh Factory, and many other venues. Mara is currently writing her memoir, Sleeping With The Dalai Lama. In addition, Mara writes for The Huffington Post, Thefix.com and Glamour Magazine. She can be seen in an episode of season 6’s Kathy Griffin’s Life On The D-List. Follow her on Twitter @marashapshay

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