David Maxwell/AFP/Getty Images
Ellis Burns speaks during a ceremony that commomorated the 40th anniversary of the 1970 shootings at Kent State University and then-Jackson State College.
Ellis Burns speaks during a ceremony that commomorated the 40th anniversary of the 1970 shootings at Kent State University and then-Jackson State College. David Maxwell/AFP/Getty Images
In the ideal world, a newsroom brings together past, present and future. Reporters are, of necessity, focused on the present — what is happening right now. But often in order to understand the present it's often important to reach into the past. And, of course, it's important to have an eye for what is coming around the bend. That's why it's crucial to have a mixture of levels of experience, mindsets, some institutional memory, or at least respect for history, and also a restlessness about the next big thing.
I say in the "ideal world" because news organizations are so strapped for cash right now, many are losing one or the other end of the spectrum of exprience — or both — the freshest eyes, the grayest hair, often are the first to go in in a time of economic stress.
That's why important anniversaries sometimes get missed. It's not because people don't care, it's that the people who care — the people for whom these events are the most real — often are not there to remark upon them. And often the freshest eyes — the ones who will say, whoa! I didn't know about that — aren't there either.
That's a long way to point out that today is a big day in the lives of some. It's the 40th anniversary of the day four students were shot to death by National Guardsmen at Kent State University in Ohio. We will probably never come to a single world view about what those days of student protests meant but there is no question, that for many people those were life changing events. They forever shaped their view of government, of themselves, of authority, of their fellow citizens.
Another such anniversary is happening next week. The Jackson State killings occurred on Thursday/Friday May 14–15, 1970, at Jackson State College, now Jackson State university in Jackson, Mississippi.
The university has memorialized the event. We're still trying to figure out what we're going to do.
There's that saying, those who don't remember the past are condemned to relive it. But those who live in the past will never experience and appreciate the present ... and they surely won't see the future clearly.
So where do we plant our feet on this one?