Editorial: The Good Ol’ Days

EditorialApril16website

As the deadline for this year’s 25 Under 35 neared, I watched nomination after nomination flood my inbox. I wasn’t complaining; I was enjoying reading about the young newspaper professionals making a difference in the industry. It was exciting to see the creative work being done at publications around the country in different markets. In the end, we received more than 130 nominations—all of them impressive and encouraging. But we could only pick 25, and it wasn’t an easy task.

The general consensus among the men and women on our list seemed to be that there’s no better time to be working in journalism. That may sound like a cliché to many of us, but when you read their reasons why, you’ll understand—because now’s the best time to embrace change and innovation, take risks and face challenges, and learn new skills and traits. If these young professionals are making these kinds of significant impacts now at their age, imagine what the industry will look like in 10 or 20 more years if they continue with this same kind of confidence?

I also sensed a theme from many of their older peers who sent in nominations. I realize they took a few moments out of their busy routine (many of them publishers, presidents, and vice presidents) to put together a write-up acknowledging the talents of their younger colleagues. It shows me that even though these supervisors and managers have to deal with smaller newsrooms and declining resources, they still believe in the future of this industry.

I write this editorial after “Spotlight,” the movie about the Boston Globe’s investigative reporting on the sexual abuse by priests, won the Oscar for Best Picture. When the actors, producers and director got on stage to pick up the statue, I’m sure every journalist watching felt like they were standing on that stage with them.

Martin Baron, who was editor of the Globe at the time and is now executive editor of the Washington Post, wrote (wapo.st/24oYUik), “Journalists worldwide have now seen the movie, and they’ve reacted the same: This movie is stunningly accurate in how it portrays the practice of journalism, investigative reporting in particular.”

It’s easy to reminisce about the days of journalism depicted in “Spotlight” (which took place in 2001 and 2002), and some of us even still reminisce about the days depicted in “All the President’s Men,” the 1976 film about Washington Post journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward and their investigative work into the Watergate scandal more than 40 years ago. Maybe what we’re really recalling are simpler times, when print was king, and there was no Facebook or Twitter, no Craigslist or iPads—just good ol’ fashion journalism.

But what does good ol’ fashion journalism even mean? It’s storytelling. It’s relationships. It’s audience. It’s community. All of those factors are happening right now in journalism. The good ol’ days aren’t gone; the good ol’ days are still here.

So, in addition to recognizing the next generation of newspaper leaders in this issue, we also recognize how long-form journalism has moved beyond the printed page. Again, content still reigns like it did in 2001 and like it did in 1972. The only difference is content is being consumed by more people on more platforms. We also spoke with past Pulitzer Prize winners and Mike Pride, Pulitzer Prize administrator, about the centennial anniversary of the awards. This year’s winners will be announced April 18, and perhaps one of them will be a digital news site. If so, let’s congratulate them for creating good ol’ fashion journalism.

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Published: April 5, 2016

3 thoughts on “Editorial: The Good Ol’ Days

  • April 5, 2016 at 7:59 am
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    I agree with a lot of this column. There are many options for delivering news for those willing to embrace them.
    However, the biggest problem continues, as it always has been in the technology age, the fact that consumers don’t want to pay for the news which means news gathering organizations continue to look to drive their costs down. Most have reached the point where they’ve cut staff to the bone. Now the carving knife is in the form of stagnant pay. In the past decade, our organization has had three or four years with no annual raise and most other years less than 1.25 percent down to as low as 0.5 percent. On top of that, the ad side of the organizations are clueless on how to sell the new delivery methods.
    The end result is that those close enough to even sniff retirement are getting out, while those too young for that option are leaving the industry in droves for other career paths.
    What remains are organizations top-heavy with management overseeing tiny staffs of demoralized, overworked, underpaid people trapped between being too young to retire and probably too old to build a rewarding career. They are not the energized folks needed to carry off this transformation. The energized folks have left the building with Elvis.

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  • April 5, 2016 at 12:37 pm
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    The problem now is almost comical were it not so sad: The journalistic whores who get paid under the table in perks, political opportunism or some other coin have led consumers to expect to get deep, meaningful relationships for free. That means those who still want to practice quality, verified, fact-based, in-depth reporting get nothing. Unfortunately, few readers/viewers/listeners/bloggers/etc. have any idea to tell real journalism from fantasy so they choose fantasy–it is free, fluffy and fun. Thankfully, we still have those with a sense of idealism who are willing to fight the good fight.

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  • April 6, 2016 at 10:26 am
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    From a 70-year-old “half time” editor-reporter:
    This is, in ways, exactly the topic I planned to write this morning in a weekly column. As a 70-year-old “half time” editor-reporter-photographer I’ll agree that “good ol’ fashion journalism means: It’s storytelling. It’s relationships. It’s audience. It’s community.”
    I disagree that it still exists.
    You can’t pay kids with j-degrees somewhere between minimum wage and local beginning schoolteacher paychecks and tell them be part of the community. They can’t afford it. Their relationships are with others in the same boat, and that means degree-rich but paycheck poor store clerks and such, and few community leaders by any definition.
    It’s not just the newsroom, either. As a survivor of the hot metal days, I remember when a linotype operator would bring in a good news tip on average of once a month. He made a living wage and was active in the community representing all of us as our valued co-worker. Who is his equivalent today? I can’t find him or her anywhere.
    As for storytelling, that’s a tossup when reporters are people who aren’t really part of the mainstream of their community and, frankly, don’t care to be since they were looking for their next job move before they took this one.
    Does it make a better story from a transient perspective with no real local relationships or any desire to have any? Is there even a rational answer to that?
    Ad sales people? Are their sales appointments with people with whom they share a degree of social capital? Or are they meeting as people from entirely different worlds and career imperatives with no common ground?
    I hate being the grumbling old man, but since I began in 1965, we have lost the intergenerational newspaper crew that included craftsmen and writers, photographers and sales people who knew and respected each other. Mentors? There are a few success stories in that role, but we forget that often mentoring offers better tales of failure than awards. There’s less depth on our bench.
    Frankly I think we forget the advantages technology gives us and use it as a straw man argument against our industry-wide failure to adapt and make good business decisions.
    Corporations, too, don’t share lunch with staff even in the best of times as owners once did regardless of economic challenges.
    It comes down to social capital; and friends, we no longer have very much and we have only ourselves to blame.

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