As a journalism teacher, I talk to students about finding their voice. I urge them to tell stories that reflect who they are, but also to tell stories that will be meaningful to others. In the digital age, conversations with my students often revolve around sharing their voice, sharing that story, online.
I often forget, and they haven’t yet discovered, that online media can be a great equalizer. They are not speaking to their audience through a television set or a radio. They are broadcasting in a way that allows their voice to be heard by others – through a myriad of channels – and perhaps more importantly they are broadcasting in a way that allows the audience to respond to them and continue the conversation that they began. Now we must include yet another dimension to this conversation.
Roger Ebert presented at TED last month with the assistance of his friends…and some technology. Ebert lost his speaking voice to cancer, yet he remains a prolific presence in American journalism. His voice, despite the lack of audible sound, is stronger and more poignent than ever. He has leveraged the power of online media – facebook, twitter, blogging, and more – to reclaim his voice and his place among this country’s greatest arbiters of popular cultural. Ebert reminded the TED audience that the impatience that people may have when waiting for his text-to-speech software to catch up with his thoughts disappears online. Online, Ebert says, everyone speaks at the same speed.