Monday, February 05, 2007

Why we fight

“Mr. Weaver, if you were 30 or 35 years old, would you keep working for a newspaper company?”

That question at lunch in Fort Worth last week nicely framed everything I’d been talking about during two days at the Star-Telegram. Given all the uncertainty in our business – the hiring freezes, the layoffs elsewhere, McClatchy’s sale of the Star Tribune – how can anybody feel good about our profession?

I struggle with those questions myself. Though I’m at a different stage of my career, I still wonder now and then why it’s worth getting up and going into the office to fight through another round of unpleasant troubles. Most of my 40 years in newspapers have been richly rewarding (hey, I started in high school, okay?) but none of those years were anything like the last one.

Well, so what? My answer is still unequivocal and clear: yes, I’d absolutely stay – and for the same reasons that I did in the first place.

I simply ask whether what I’m doing is still mission-driven: does it help hold the government accountable, speak truth to power, build community cohesion? Can I still feel at the end of the day (and the end of a career) that what I did was worthwhile, and that it made some difference?

I said here last November that “it looks like we are going to be the generation called on to save American journalism.” It sounded kind of over-heated when I wrote it, but I’m more certain all the time that it’s true.

I’m working on a longer post that builds on recent discussions about these questions in Modesto, Sacramento, Tacoma and Fort Worth. But I can pass along the conclusion right now: stay and fight, because it’s worth it.

4 comments:

  1. McClatchy will survive and win. Newspapers will be around for many generations to come. Hang in. Mr Pruitt's purchase of K-R gave a signal to the naysayers that the future is not as bleak as it may appear.

    nicholasT

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  2. Craig Klugman/cklugman@jg.net4:55 PM

    Howard Weaver has always been one of the most thoughtful honest editors I've known, and I think he speaks for a lot of us. I hope he does. Someday, though, I'll have to teach him the difference between "like" and "as if."

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  3. a Hack4:05 PM

    Yes, get into newspapers so people like Howard Weaver can make over $400,000 per year
    while they make reporters buy their own coffee and newspapers. Of COURSE you're encouraging young people to stay in journalism -- they are the cheap labor supporting your salary and that of your boss Pruitt!

    Oh, and dean, tell me what signal was sent by Pruitt's subsequent decision to sell of dozens of those newspapers to someone else? And to rake in millions in bonus bucks as a direct result of the acquisitions?

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  4. Anonymous10:20 PM

    I agree with dean about newspapers surviving, but if Mr. Weaver fails to inspire the McClatchy philosophy and execution at the new papers - and that means some cleaning house of inferior and/or incompetent editors and publisher who still operate with the old Knight Ridder greed mentality, they won't last as long as they could. I do hope to feel the McClatchy effect soon. I'm more than willing to make other people money if my paper is run better, thus allowing everybody to make more money.

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