Jan 3rd, 2010
We were playing Loaded Questions following a delicious Christmas dinner with our Olympia, Wash., relatives Ann, Eric and Faye and Eric’s girlfriend Julie. One question we drew was to name a profession that would be extinct in 10 years. Two of the group guessed journalism-related jobs: paper delivery and journalists in general. How could I argue with our own Oregonian shrinking like the Wicked Witch of the East before our very eyes and other newspapers laying off reporters, photographers, even editors. As a copyeditor who’s worked at several newspapers and magazines, I feel sometimes like a horseshoer watching horseless carriages taking over the road.
Here’s an argument for keeping the journalism profession alive. I’m talking about the kind of journalism I went to school to learn and get a degree in, not the kind of stuff we call New Media. My argument goes like this: Someone with writing and reporting skills gets paid to use them for the ferreting out of information vital to us all. I’m sitting here trying to cook dinner, do laundry and walk the dogs, feeling the need to write, but hey, if a paying job comes in I’ll drop the blog post-haste.
When I worked at the News Tribune (sorry, no link; it’s been dead for years) or the Press-Enterprise or the Portland Tribune those folks got my undivided attention because they helped pay the bills. Don’t get me wrong, I admire writers and editors who will work for free. In fact, I advise fresh-out-of-J-school grads to do just that: give away their writing by working gratis for some publication — any publication that will give them clips. But that can’t go for long. Nor should it. I was reminded recently about why we desperately need paid, skilled journalists.
The Oregonian ran an investigative piece on Dec. 30 on the sale of green energy tax incentives to corporations, among them Wal-Mart, Costco and U.S. Bank, that effectively allowed these companies to avoid paying millions of dollars in state taxes — and here’s the clincher — without actually doing anything green. Turns out these tax incentives can be bought and sold just like derivitives — but at a much better rate of return.
‘Course we Oregonians lose the tax income, but that’s business, right?
I’d never have known about that if the Oregonian wasn’t around. Good job Harry Esteve.
Example number two: the graph from the Washington Post that ran on A4 of the same edition showing every U.S. senator’s vote on the health care reform bill along with how much money each has gotten from health care lobbyists and the percentage of uninsured in their states. How can senators Hutchison and Cornyn sleep at night knowing they voted against reform when their state, Texas, has the highest rate of uninsured in the nation? And John McCain (who can Twitter) pulled in more than $9 million in lobby geld voted lock-step with the other pull-up-the-ladder Republicans. His state only has 19% uninsured. I’m sure those folks will understand his vote, right? Interestingly John Kerry got more than $8 million from health care groups but he voted for reform.
I guess you can see where my loyalties lie. Given a choice between blogging and newspapers, I’ll take real journalism any day — every day, pitched on my driveway!