Sunday, May 06, 2007

A visit to a castle and journalistic dream

- As the tag-a-long, luggage-carrying husband to the now-past president of the California College Media Association (aka, Admiral Fox), I've gotten to visit some interesting places in the past two years, but the Hearst Castle in San Simeon is the topper.

Once the home to the late William Randolph Hearst, whose name is still attached to his media empire, the castle is now a state park.

Hearst speaks to his reporters
Hearst speaking to his reporters

My impression of media mogul Hearst had always been fairly negative. He is credited with helping launch the Spanish-American War by using his newspapers to stir up the nation. His famous quote: "You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war," is one every journalism student learns. His newspapers are credited with demonizing marijuana, perhaps in good part responsible for the continuing war on drugs that siphons off so many public dollars.

But after taking the tour and listening to the tour guide's rapid patter, I've shifted ground and think that perhaps Hearst, like all visionaries, isn't so easily pidgeonholed. A fairly recent biography of Hearst is making its way to me through is just the kind of innovation Hearst would have loved, I believe. Of course, he would have created a competitor and tried to run Amazon out of business. He loved journalism - but he also was a businessman.

The castle grounds are fabulous, though it wasn't planned as a castle. It was Hearst's love of art (and acquiring it) that made the place turn into the huge expanse thousands of people see each week on tours. The famous architect Julia Morgan designed most of the place over a period of many years.

On the Hearst castle tour
On the Hearst Castle tour

Hearst Castle pool
Pool drained for maintenance

The tour was part of a package of events for 120 journalism students from all over the state at the CCMA annual awards convention. At the awards dinner held at the Hearst museum, the chatter at the tables was about the awards, of course, but more than a little Hearst history was also being discussed.

But the film Citizen Kane (based on Hearst's life) was not shown and is considered by historians to be more of a cartoon than biographical film. Orson Welles, who portrayed Hearst in that movie, never met Hearst.

So no, there's no mention of 'rosebud' at the castle.

Waiting for results
Students waiting for results of judging

General Excellence winners from Notre Dame de Namur College

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