Few journalism programs would give their students The Law by Frederic Bastiat to read. The National Journalism Center (NJC) does. “Bastiat was a profound Christian,” said K.E. Grubbs Jr., director of NJC. “He believed freedom was a gift from God.” Bastiat’s brief exposition of the principles of limited government is a classic of conservative-libertarian thinking. The simple and direct style of this 19th Century French writer should be a model for writers today: “As long as it is admitted that the law may be diverted from its true purpose-that it may violate property instead of protecting it-then everyone will want to participate in making the law, either to protect himself against plunder or use it for plunder,” said Bastiat in a passage that could have been written about modern-day America’s massive political establishment and attendantly politicized culture. “Political questions will always be prejudicial, dominant, and all-absorbing.”
From its founding by conservative journalist M. Stanton Evans in 1977, NJC has taken traditional American values as its lodestar. But with Evans’ recent retirement and the replacemento f some of NJC’s staff since Young America’s Foundation (YAF) took over the group, NJC has undergone some changes. Instead of having interns spend half of their 12-week program doing an in-house project, they now spend all 12 weeks interning at an actual publication or broadcast outlet, said Grubbs. “Stan started something great,” he said. “It’s a juggernaut for creating journalists. . . . My calling is to integrate the principles of a free society into the practice of responsible journalism.”
Interns convene once a week to share their experiences and “for a lecture from a media figure,” said Grubbs. “We give them a weekly spot news assignment.” Grubbs said that he is a big believer in “on-the-job training. I would not advise anyone to be a journalism major or communications major. If you’re going to school, major in something else. . . . I don’t see journalists as professionals. I see them as craftsmen.”
“Over 1,400 students have now graduated from the NJC’s six-to-12-week training sessions, held three times during the year, and we estimate some 900 of these have gone on to media and media-related positions,” says NJC’s website. “Among the media outlets where NJCers have worked are the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal; ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS. . .Time, Newsweek, New Yorker. . . .” The list is long and, of course, includes HUMAN EVENTS.
Non-profit NJC does not charge its interns. “We’re not having trouble attracting applicants,” said Grubbs. “We’re selective.” Tom Phillips, chairman of HUMAN EVENTS’ parent company, will chair NJC’s new board of governors, said Grubbs.
Newspaper circulation is undergoing a long-term decline, and Grubbs-a former newspaperman himself, who has been editorial page editor of the Orange County Register and an editor at the Washington Times-does not believe that television and the Internet are the only culprits. “Newspapers are not addressing the issues most important to their readers, which is their freedoms,” he said.
NJC plans to devote more resources to the Internet, which is revolutionizing the practice of journalism. The center is keeping its old web address and also now has the web address thereporter.us, featuring links to pieces by NJC alumni and a column by Grubbs. NJC also wants to hold conferences in Washington, D.C., and at Ronald Reagan’s old ranch-now run by YAF-in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Few Reaganites seem to make the mainstream media their home, despite 25 years of NJC’s efforts. “Liberals go into journalism because they want to change the world, they have a conceit about them that they think they can regulate other people’s lives,” said Grubbs. Reagan’s election as President in 1980 made this trend worse, Grubbs thinks. “The liberals identified the media as the instrument of change because they didn’t have the White House anymore,” said Grubbs, who worked under the Register‘s famed R.C. Hoyles when first starting out as a journalist. “Then later, Republicans took control of Congress.”
The individualistic and libertarian-minded Hoyles would likely have agreed with Bastiat, who wrote of certain writers in his time, “These socialist writers look upon people in the same manner that the gardener views his trees. Just as the gardener capriciously shapes the trees into pyramids, parasols, cubes, vases, fans, and other forms, just so does the socialist writer whimsically shape human beings into groups, series, centers, sub-centers, honeycombs, labor-corps, and other variations. And just as the gardener needs axes, pruning hooks. . .just so does the socialist writer need the force that he can find only in law to shape human beings.”
NJC may be reached at 110 Elden St., Herndon, Va. 20170 (800-872-1776; fax: 703-318-9122; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www.nationaljournalismcenter.org)