So let's talk about work, shall we?

My editor declared the honeymoon over at 5:41 p.m. Tuesday.
"Man, we've thrown you under the bus, but good," he said. "Hope you don't mind."
I didn't. In fact, I asked for it. Anything I could do to help out, while I got a desk in order, learned a new computer system (one of many along the way), and learned to wander my way around newsroom protocols and around my new hometown (had lunch at a real Vietnamese place for a excellent bowl of Pho and a coffee).
So they put me to work.
(Starting a new job, in a new town, during a shortened holiday week is just plain stupid.)
I have had no complaints.
And I will not. Because at this new place, dialogue happens. Not from the top down, but from all sides. Honest questions that do not get a blank stare and silence, but honest answers.
Refreshing.

OK, so let's talk about my work life. For the one and only time forward on The Tension.
(It's a part of me that I'd like to keep private.)

Back when I was a child, people would ask what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said "reporter." Not writer, not poet (even though I did do both at an early age), but a reporter: A writer, investigator, or presenter of news stories.
A voyeur of the human condition.
It is a calling/a trade/a way of life. reporters are never technically "off." We're bred to look at things differently, from story angles. "If I find that interesting, would others?" That's what we do.
So far, everyone from the editor down has emphasised that I need to take my time, have fun, get to know the newsroom and the community.
However, journalists are notorious perfectionists.
Do I think I did a good job this week (I started my three-day holiday weekend on Thursday, since we're a bit short-handed because of vacations and I volunteered to work on Sunday)? No.
Will I cut myself some slack? Probably not.
Because I've been doing this, or planned on doing this, most of my life.
And those are my issues to deal with.

But when a wiz-bang, boy wonder of an editor tries to tell the community that print journalism is dead, be skeptical. And very afraid.
Journalism is alive and it is well.
Because what it takes to tell good stories are good journalists who know their shit - and enough of them - to blanket a community. You cannot cover a town of 100,000 people with eight-and-one-half journalists. And to think you can make that up with freelancers and "reader-derived content" is just asking for trouble.
(And this post in no way takes a swipe at the brothers and sisters in arms I left; you guys do a helluva job in a place that looks a little more like Hell every single day.)
First off, the use of freelancers does not build the partnerships a newspaper needs to stay on top of issues.
And content from readers? Yeah, everyone thinks they can do this thing called journalism, but a few days (maybe a few weeks) and they've lost their taste for it. Journalism is hard.
And it should be left to real journalists.
My new boss has a booming voice and a resume that goes back a ways. He has worked with people I've worked with along the way (the fraternity is pretty small, when you look closely) and he moves through the newsroom engaging his reporters and editors. He calls everyone "chief." He loudly congratulated a younger reporter (the mix between old curmudgeons and cub reporters is pretty evenly split) in the newsroom - no impersonal emails - but came up and actually patted the guy on the back for a job well done.
Real journalists also make really good bosses (editors). Because they care about what we're doing for the community that we all ultimately serve.
And they care for the people who have been put under their charge.
Expect everything from your local paper. You deserve it.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'd also expect a good measure of ethics -- from in the trenches and from the top. That means no anonymous swipes at colleages for their political beliefs, religious beliefs and their gender. Not that you've ever engaged in such a thing under the name Potie. And while we're on the ethics topic, I can't help but wonder why some people feel that they have more civil rights than others and will resort to sexual harassment in an attempt to crush and stifle a reporter. But, hey, maybe ethics, integrity and discussion is too much to ask for in this zero-sum era we live in.

katy C said...

Nice posting Thom. May your new digs have a true local paper. Newspapers should be about the reporting of important and relevant community and world issues - not corporate bullshit.

ThomG said...

Konbawa Ms. Lochrie, thanks for lurking!

And thanks for the page view!

(And yes, I'll be passing this comment onto the attorney over at the RS.)

Barbara said...

Amen, brother.
This latest RS business about making the paper more something or other is more smoke and mirrors. I'm a newspaper junkie so I'll probably go on reading it-but, I go to Starbucks for the NYT. I do feel sorry for the young journalists at the RS. It must be a very disheartening place to start a career.
Good luck in SD. I go to Rapid City occasionally and haven't been able to get a handle on life in South Dakota.

Anonymous said...

Hey Thom,
Sounds good so far. I hope it keeps getting better and better and...Well, you get it.
Are you going to let us non-journalist types know where to find your stories. I enjoyed reading them in the RS and would like to continue if I know where to look.

ThomG said...

The link would be: www.argusleader.com

Anonymous said...

Yo T,
Nice Monday piece.

Speaking of Ms. Christy Lochrie, I'm assuming you've read this?

http://christylochrie.wordpress.com/

See her June 13th entry. It will provide a great laugh for those still working at the Record Searchlight...

Also, rather funny that Christy Lochrie would post an ANONYMOUS comment on your blog since that seems to be what she claims drove her over the edge... Or maybe she was already there?

Anonymous said...

You know, less than a year ago it appears that Christy Lochrie thought you were the shit.. You know, it kind of looks like she actually had a crush on you? Hmm...

Here's her comment on your "Dancing with the Stars" blog last July:

Christy Lochrie said...
I was wondering how you did, TG. You stepped out of a comfort zone, entertained folks and raised bucks for charity. I'd say there's lots to be proud of on your part. Rock on, TG, the Pimp Daddy of the dance floor.

Ciao.

Christy

Michelle said...

Seems Christy Lochrie is the ultimate hypocrite. Nice......

Anyway, glad to hear you're doing so well in SD already. I plan on checking out your new paper's site! :-)