“Ain’t no room for cowards in journalism at this moment in time.”

Nor dreamers.

Over the past 10+ grim years in journalism — the traditional world of newspapers, TV and radio — there has been LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of bad news. Sometimes I get the feeling that journalists get the blame for the problems of traditional journalism. That if journalism  — and journalists — were better, there would be no problem.

Not true.

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Creativity and yearning for connection lies dormant in most newsrooms, just anesthetized — or drowned — by the financial mess that has engulfed the world of most journalists still lucky (?) enough to have a job.

The first quote comes at the end of a short interview that Joe Sexton, the former New York Times sports editor had with New York magazine. He left with a raft of other editors in the NYT’s January downsizing.  Don’t even ask how many there have been. Either editors or downsizings. There or elsewhere.

A good way to keep track is to check in at jimromenesko.com, which is where I found out about the item that sparked my second sentence at the top of this entry.

The Record, one of New Jersey’s largest newspapers, is also offering buyouts and closing a special section – called Signature – it had bravely started as a way to showcase its best.

This is a quote from the paper’s editor, from his memo on the subject featured on the Romenesko site.

“Signature allowed so many of us to think about what we would do if we went a step further in our reporting, design, photographs and graphics,” writes Martin Gottlieb… “It makes sense to me to take the best of Signature… and feature them in the regular sections of the daily paper. As we do, there will be a measurable savings in newsprint costs.”

Hear that dreaming? Ain’t it just lovely? Hear the creak-crack-thud of the failing bottom line?

There has always been a passion to connect with readers and to create vivid stories about our world in the best journalists from Mark Twain to Edward R. Murrow to Joe Sexton (who was the guiding genius behind the NYT’s great multi-media effort “Snowfall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek”) to the many brave souls in New Jersey who brought Signature to life.

Sexton brought the whole new-media toolbox into play to create the multi-layered story of one avalanche. He showed, as many have already done, that the will to use the host of new story-telling devices is alive in “traditional” newsrooms, as is the skill to use them well.

The sad truth is that folks doing these brave, smart things aren’t being rewarded by the companies that employ them.

And yes, I know, there are lots of smart folks working hard who aren’t being rewarded in these difficult days the way they should be. But very few of them are being blamed for those difficulties.

We need to frame our discussions of journalism differently, so that the desperately needed art and craft of journalism survives and thrives in the new universe.

A big first step would be to acknowledge the bravery of the crazy people who still populate our newsrooms and applaud those who struggle in colleges to earn the designation of journalist, despite all the bad news.

“If you are not asking yourself every couple of years how to once more scare yourself to death, then you are living something of the coward’s life,” Sexton says. “Ain’t no room for cowards in journalism at this moment in time.”

4 thoughts on ““Ain’t no room for cowards in journalism at this moment in time.”

  1. Inquire magazine is an excellent example of good journalists embracing and making the most of new media, defiantly no cowards there. One can only hope their financial backing holds out long enough for them to gain a following….

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