Will Richardson draws our attention to several new forms of literacy and composition that are changing the way the world communicates, composes, and consumes information. The proliferation of accessible avenues for the immediate production, dissemination, and consumption of information – information here is used in the broadest sense, comprising facts, opinions, thoughts, feelings, interpretations, impressions, visions, rants, poems, songs, movies, videos, photo- and video- journalism…and the list goes on – has changed the face, indeed the foundation and material makeup of what we have come to know as “the media.” The fourteen year-old two houses down could easily be engaged in investigative journalism, capturing snippets of life that Geraldo Rivera would give his eye teeth for. But unlike Geraldo, the neighborhood youth needs no camera crew, make-up team, or catering service; he needs only his camera-phone, a reasonably up-to-date computer, and the urge to tell a story. The now almost ubiquitous ease of access to instant publication constitutes a reconstitution of the media, a reMEDIAtion. The fourteen year-old boy two houses down IS “the media.”
There is a long-standing credo (though by some estimates it is no longer standing strong) among journalists that dictates accuracy and responsibility in reporting. To safeguard the integrity of the information that is produced for public consumption, journalists have long been supported by teams of editors and fact-checkers who strive, ostensibly, to verify the veracity and uphold the integrity of the writing that is distributed to the public. The girl-with-the-cellphone-camera-two-houses-down likely has no eager collegiate intern to uncover the errata in her reporting. The girl-next-door-cum-investigator-reporter-editor-anchorperson must rely on her own skills to ensure, if she is so inclined, that what she is offering up for pubic cyberconsumption is true and accurate. Where does she learn these skills?
Richardson tells us that, as composition instructors, it is our duty to “prepare our students to become not only readers and writers, but editors and collaborators and publishers as well” (5). Inherent in this toolbox of skills is knowledge and appreciation of (or, perhaps, reverence for) responsible and socially-conscious citizenship. Is this too much to ask of the step- (bastard-?) child of the English department? Composition as a discipline was born of the perceived need of immediate remediation in 19th C. Harvard students. It now appears the domain of Composition to respond to and take responsibility for the imMEDIAcy of modern communication and its pursuant reMEDIAtion. I think we might need some help.