Recently Howard Owens, Jeff Jarvis, Pat Thornton, and many, many other journalism/media bloggers have crafted posts about what newspaper journalists are or are not doing, about what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong and about what they should be doing that they’re not.
Owens, Jarvis, Thornton, heck all of these gifted bloggers/industry leaders have valid points and if I was a newsroom journalist who fit into one of their ‘in need of improvement’ like descriptions, I would probably be feeling pretty crappy about my alleged craft. And it’s that impact, whether intended or not, that I have a problem with.
All too often many of us who have worked our way out front-line jobs have, thanks in part to the blogosphere, become adept at noting ways front-line employees could and should be improving. We talk about the need for them to obtain new skills, to take more chances, to embrace audio, video, multimedia, narrative storytelling, etc., as if it was as simple as a reporter reading a For Dummies book and doing it.
Now I’m not saying the current-day news employees don’t bare some responsibility for the state of their craft or even for the status of their newspaper and/or website. But too many times our critiques, observations or suggestions overlook key parts of the equation.
We, and I’ll include myself here to a point, do not demand of senior editors, publishers and corporate headquarters that their staff members are given the time or funds when we call on them to learn new skills or start using new technologies.
We overlook the possibility that corporate mandates or guidelines might be behind recent trends whether in print or online. How many newspaper sites have been given SoundSlides (an audio slide show program) with the message from corporate “use it”?
We ignore the dire straits some newsrooms find themselves in, thanks in part to the budgets provided by publishers or corporate headquarters, when we call for additional training (and all training has a cost, be it time or actual dollars).
I believe that it is important to the future of our industry, and our craft that we maintain our work and keep trying to provide guidance and support. But I think Owens, Jarvis, Thornton, myself, and others need to point our keyboards more often at those who control the direction and the funds. We need to demand their support and highlight why their own reticence (be it their own dislike of e-mail, text messaging, or audio and video) cannot be accepted from them anymore than it can be from their employees. And we need to make the link for those corporate officers who can’t see the connection between funding for training and staff development and the success or even survival of our industry.