Monday, September 29, 2008

One true thing

Now that I'm back from a weekend of sloshing and puddle-jumping in Boston -- more than 5 inches of rain in many places, just right for walking to and from the subway, and across Harvard's campus (yeah, poor me) -- and from having to have my car jump-started by AAA when it quit in Wilkes-Barre after I stopped to eat (and buy Jack Hart's book "A Writer's Coach"), here is the dominant thought that emerged from the gathering of narrative editors at the Nieman journalism foundation:

Times are tough. There's a lot of bad news going around, in everyone's newsroom. And that can throttle the effort to produce good journalism.

Don't let it. You can't let it. There's too much at stake. We have too great a responsibility to our community -- to tell the stories that are the community's shared narrative. As David Talbot, founder of salon.com, said, "A newspaper is important to the lifeblood of a city because it tells the city who it is."

You can dwell on all the reasons why it's harder to do great journalism than it was 5 or 10 or 20 years ago. Or you can acknowledge the difficulties, work to solve problems, and find a way to do the great journalism our community is depending on us to do.

Remember why you got into the business, and get back in touch with that passion. It's still there, and you can still use it, one act of journalism at a time.