Nick Kristoff, in the Fast Company article below, reminds me of two themes I've been kicking around for some time, but have failed to put "out there" to test or discuss among colleagues:
- Anecdotal observation: Most of the journalists I've met came to the profession with a healthy dose of skepticism, if not cycnicism. Newsrooms attracted (maybe still do) lone wolves, cowboys, men and women seeking to slay dragons (wrongdoers) while looking askance at the world. If they didn't come to the newsroom with that mindset, most of them arrived there
after a few months or years on the job. As a group, journalists appear of the "glass half empty" persuasion. In skimming the headlines and questions about journalists on LinkedIn groups and other social media, I find a common question (or attack) that seems to be centered around journalists' and-or editors' resistance to change. If you apply the mindset described above, should the question or complaint really surprise you? When presented with a new idea, observation or supposed fact, journalists' natural, automatic response has been to poke holes in it, find its weak spots, challenge the authenticity. Not that that is the best response, but it seems somewhat obvious. And no doubt stifles innovation and-or agility in our industry. Points up what many have said: we need a culture change.
- The other concept Kristoff raises is that of taking the extra step: Once we point out what's wrong with a statement/fact/person/company/agency/whatever, help the reader-viewer figure out how to do something about the problem. Enable, empower the reader and viewer. As a profession we've historically abandoned that role thinking that it smacks of advocacy journalism, and that advocacy journalism violates the post WWII rise of objectivity. Well, there's nothing saying journalists have to identify or push a single answer (that might well be advocacy and biased). Most of us have grown up with our parents or bosses telling us there's more than one way to skin a cat (pardon to PETA, we have three cats and treat them VERY well). Most complicated issues have multiple forward-looking scenarios. Sharing and evaluating options on how citizens might solve problems ought not be a crime. This would require another change in our shared culture.
So my questions to you: Am I too skeptical, cynical? Are these concepts too obvious for further discussion, or are they worth exploring how we might change the culture? What more might you offer to this conversation (let's remain civil, considerate and professional). ... Brian