Eyeing journalism’s future, unblinkered

There’s so much examination of what’s gone wrong with the newspaper industry in wake of the Tribune Co. bankruptcy filing and other rotten news about the news, that I feel a need to wade in here only briefly.

Now is not the time to get all sentimental over print, despite all the love many of us still have for newspapers and the journalistic ideal we’ve long believed they held. They did, for a time, and they still do, from time to time.

Online journalism veterans are right to offer tough-minded analysis of what’s been a long, gradual march to this point. But neither is it helpful to come across in a smug “I told you so” fashion. The industry, and especially the journalists who have been jettisoned from its ranks this year, are paying the price for this myopia deeply enough, thank you.

Yes, do go ahead and keep kicking us around, while we’re down, and please remind us again how clueless we are. Even if that hardly applies to all of us summarily dropped into that convenient box.

As the elegies for newspapers continue, so will abuse — and ridicule — be heaped on us for not having the foresight of others to see what was coming. That’s to be expected, but I’m not looking back at the newspaper world that I left behind. And frankly, I don’t care who’s to blame any more, because there’s plenty to go around. The time should be past for that, and for saying silly things like the “news has cooties.”

So I took some comfort in a post by a former newspaper editor who recently quit rather than make company-ordered layoffs and who has offered some useful suggestions for jobless journalists. While I understand his first piece of advice — don’t read such things as “the media cathedral has crumbled” for the time being — that’s going to be awfully hard to do. The key is not dwelling on the calamity but eloquently moving forward:

“All of us have our issues, our reduced expectations, our fears. But we are not defined by our unemployment. We are defined by the work we have done and the work we will do again. We are defined by our values and our commitment to craft. Having been there, I know there is light somewhere ahead. In the end, our commitment and our optimism will see us through.”


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