A must-read about what it means to be a journalist

Person looking through documents with computer

Picture: Strelka Institute, flickr

When I was a full-time journalist, I kept an eye on news and views about my industry – and did more of that as the years wore on and it became apparent that my industry was in Big Trouble.

Now that I am a freelancer and am able have a bit more of a flexible approach to how I use my working hours, I have a bunch of feeds I use to keep an eye on things, with a particular eye to any bright ideas about how to get journalism out of its Big Trouble.

After a while, there’s a sameness to much of what I find: journalists in the States doing Trump-gazing, techy types proposing new data-driven models, lots of hand-wringing about fake news and lots and lots about how Facebook and Google have eaten our lunch (and breakfast and supper too).

But today, scrolling idly through my Twitter feed I spotted something shared by journalist Reuben Goldberg: a piece by one Laura McInerney, the editor of a UK publication called Schools Week. In the article, entitled Journalists don’t need to self-flagellate about Corbyn, but they should about Grenfell, she discusses journalism through the prism of its coverage of the recent UK election and the Grenfell Tower fire. And it made my sit up straight in my seat. Here just one of many paragraphs that spoke to me most clearly:

…as journalists, we have to plug away at the dull stuff. Keep timetables on our computers of decision dates. Check back to see if things are being done. Write loud words when they are not. Talk about the boring-but-important and find ways to make it interesting. That’s the job. It’s not chasing glamour and scandal; it’s making the important into something interesting.

There are no answers here to the big questions bedevilling the journalism profession. It’s simply a reminder of what it is that we get out of bed to do every morning, and a reminder that good journalism means hard and quiet work. Just read it.

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