Thoughts, Dreams and Coffee Rings

On Radioactive Spiders, Journalism and Saving the World

“Why do you want to be a journalist?”

It’s a natural question that has echoed in the voices around me from the moment I chose to enroll in Jacksonville University’s communication program.

I always respond with one of two answers, my adult answer or my favorite answer.

My adult answer is that I want to use my writing and photography to inform people, and to help give a voice to those who want to tell their stories. Hopefully, by doing so, I will be able to make a positive difference in this world.

On the other hand, my favorite answer is one simple word: superpowers.

Sometimes, I just like to smile and say that the reason I’m a journalism student is so that, after I walk across the graduation stage, after my tassel is turned and my diploma framed, I can sit back, kick my feet up, and wait for my superpowers to arrive.

And if I am to believe what the comic books tell me, my chances are pretty good.

Superheroes and journalists, both professionals with tight deadlines, odd hours and “save the world” aspirations, often intermingle in popular culture.

One way or another they would get here, whether by radioactivity, cosmic rays, or a spider bite.

Then, I would be off to save the world.

I would don my mask and join the ranks of Marvel’s Peter Parker, a photojournalist for “The Daily Bugle,” who spends his evenings moonlighting as Spiderman, and DC’s Clark Kent, who reports for the “Daily Planet” when his alter ego Superman is not preoccupied saving citizens from out-of -control trains or from the villainous plots of Lex Luthor.

It’s a fun scenario to imagine, one I liked to think about back when I a kid watching the animated journalist-superheroes in Saturday morning cartoons hop back and forth between their watchdog roles.

It’s also one that, as a freshman, I started to use as a way to dodge the question.

As the world of journalism began to fade from a childhood comic book fantasy and take on a tangible shape within my reality, it became increasingly apparent that I can’t save the world, reporter notebook or otherwise.

I would laugh away the doubts that maybe it wouldn’t be all I thought it was, skate around the worries that maybe I would not be able to make a difference after all.

It’s a feeling that stretches across career disciplines. Looking at the world and seeing the vast amount of suffering that exists and the ever changing complexities that drive it, it can be easy to feel like your efforts can’t make a difference.

That’s how I began to feel as the pages of my internal comic book started to fray.

Then, in an unexpected moment, there was a paradigm shift.

My sister Lorna, a JU nursing alumni, and I were talking after a difficult day for her while she was a student in clinicals. She stopped and said, “I know I can’t save the world, but I can save someone’s world.”

She meant that she can help a person feel better, or help save a persons life, or save life of a loved one. This, she said, saves a world.

This stuck with me and changed the way I thought about saving the world and the journalist superheroes.

Besides, as it turns out, superheroes don’t make the best journalists.

Daniel Snyder of The Atlantic put it well in a May 2014 column., “the media is, in theory at least, supposed to be honest. Putting on a costume, coming up with a fake name, and lying to everyone about what you really do are the opposite of that.”

I have no costume or alter ego. My name is Christina Lynn Kelso and I am a senior communication major at Jacksonville University. I don’t have Clark Kent’s super strength or Bruce Wayne’s spending power. I don’t have a Spider-Sense or Cat Woman reflexes. I can’t wrangle interviewees with Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth. Some days I have Bruce Banner’s temper.

I can’t save the world, but I can tell a story. I can try to save someones world.