Journalism matters. That was the catch-phrase of a campaign a few years ago, launched by a combination of labour unions representing journalists in Ontario. It was an effort to remind the public that journalism and journalists play critical roles in a democracy and civil society.
Journalists tell stories, small and large, about people and the issues that resonate. I’ve always felt that it’s our job to tell people not only what they want to know, but perhaps more importantly what they need to know. We do that through well-crafted and researched stories, written and edited, with a narrative flow, entertaining and informing along the way.
The industry continues to evolve, with the older legacy model facing ongoing challenges, and newer platforms emerging. I imagine legacy media as an aging tree that has been shedding leaves, talent, for years. And as that talent takes root, new organic conversations grow. These conversations have the potential to reach new and expanding audiences, breaking from the old confines and biases.
Content matters. It is king, and without good content voices, new or old, won’t be heard. The audience, readership, won’t develop. Good content comes from the ability to think critically and follow where a story leads, going through open doors to see what’s there. Curiosity didn’t kill the cat, it led to answers and solutions.
Advocacy matters, including advocacy journalism. Part of a journalist’s job is to pursue content, stories, that advocates for people and community, from focusing on the need for adequate retirement income to fighting city hall. Building and maintaining a team of writers with a range of backgrounds and interests matters, as it allows for a well-rounded, diverse and enlightened conversation. That, I believe, is vital to building audience and trust.
The way content is offered matters. I’ve always had a fondness for the ‘people-issue’ approach, placing readers at the heart of the story. If, for instance, a reporter is covering a basic news event, like the installation of new sewers on a street, get comment from residents as to what they think about having their street ripped up instead of just reporting what the politicians and officials have to say. Connect the story to the reader. An online platform provides a terrific opportunity to expand the conversation, through links and such.
A passion for quality journalism, telling stories, speaking truth to power and advocating for people whose voices aren’t heard as much as others, matters. Without that passion, what’s the point? It’s not difficult to express an opinion, or to get on a soapbox and rant and rave about this or that. Happens all the time. But shouted comment is not informed comment, at least not for the most part. Journalists are professionals trained to disseminate information, getting to the heart of the matter. Trust them to do that.
Personally, I believe vibrant journalism is vital to the survival and strength of a democracy. Consider countries without a free press. What are they? Totalitarian states, that’s what. Without that free press, we’d all be mushrooms … sitting in the dark and fed bullshit. Journalists need to value the privilege and opportunity to connect people to the issues that matter, small and large. In the end, isn’t that what ‘journalism matters’ is all about?