About halfway through my freshman year of high school, I was approached by my English teach Mrs. Griffiths and asked if I’d be interested in joining the school newspaper. She saw something in my writing, but more intriguing to her – she would later reveal – was the way I asked questions.
Since that day in 1992 when I joined the East High Scroll, I have spent just about every day working for a newspaper, many of those days asking the tough questions.
I’ve never wanted to do anything else. I love news and have become an almost equally admirer of the news business. I still don’t want to do anything else, but I recognized about three years ago the way we do it has to change.
I don’t work for a newspaper anymore. I work for a media company. I’m not just a journalist anymore. I’m a publisher, a reporter, a web editor, a curator, a marketer, an audience expert, an adverting sales rep and a social media guru.
Last night, I watched “State of Play” with three others journalists. I think they’d all agree that I am more comfortable with the changes in our industry than they are, but a part of me has great admiration for those like the character Russell Crowe plays in the film, Cal McAffrey. I wanted to be him.
McAffrey is as old school as they get. He is a die-hard print journalist with the contacts, intelligence, ego and manipulative personality that is needed to always get access to the right information. Even the opening scene is dead-on: Eating a bag of Cheetos in the car, singing to a tune on the radio, driving a 18-year-old car, throwing the empty bag of Cheetos into the backseat filled with notebooks and more empty food containers.
Some of suggested this is the death of the hero journalist.
Watching “State of Play,” I couldn’t help but think that I was witnessing the dying of a cinematic archetype: the Hero Journalist. – From Simon Dumenco
But it doesn’t have to be.
I’ve said this before. I work for Gazette Communications, a family-owned media company that owns a newspaper, a television station, a state-of-the-art printing facility and a few digital products. We are under the same financial pressures as most media companies. Cedar Rapids, IA., also experienced a catastrophic flood last summer that had already weakened the local economy.
For about the past 18 months, the company has acquired a young group of journalists who love what they do and I’ve had the privilege of working with them and calling them my friends. Most of them shined brightly during the flood coverage last June, and have continued to do so. Some are comfortable with change in the industry and other struggle with it.
Whenever I talk to them about leaving for a bigger newspaper or moving onto a different career, I always tell them this: You can do great journalism anywhere.
You don’t have to be at the New York Times of the Washington Post to be a great journalist or tell a great story. Likewise, great journalism isn’t just done in print. Today’s tools and reach of digital platforms and applications only increases the ability to do great work.
So remember, you can do great journalism anywhere. Be the Cal McAffrey of your community.