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Love Letter to Journalism

Lost love letters
Image via Flickr/Creative Commons



Dear Journalism,
Some people threw you a party last night, but I doubt you had much fun. 
The event, organized by Birmingham’s NPR station 90.3 WBHM, was called Issues & Ales: The Future of Journalism in North Central Alabama
So many people in the room kept lamenting about how the Internet is changing you and changing you for the worse. I can appreciate their position. The Birmingham News, the city’s paper of record, is, as of this week, no longer a daily paper. While it produces and posts online content every day, it now only publishes a print product three times a week. 
One person in the room even suggested that you change your name. He said that you aren’t about keeping a “journal” so why do we call you “journalism.”
But Andre Natta, editor of community news website The Terminal and one of the special guest speakers at this shindig, stepped in and said, “The journal we are keeping is the journal of the communities that we serve.”
And I believe this journal isn’t any less important just because it’s moving in a more digital-focused direction. 

Journalism, I still believe you can save the world. 
WBHM General Manager Scott Hanley (far left) with the panelists.
From left: Vickii Howell, Andre Natta, Kyle Whitmire, and Bob Sims. 

Another attendee questioned whether or not you will still be able to preserve our history, as you once did, in your new form. 
Vickii Howell, another special guest and editor of BirminghamView.com suggested that because of the Internet that recorded history can be even richer. The Internet democratizes information so that we can now see history through multiple lenses, she said.  
I must admit there were moments when everyone in the room disappeared and I began to think about us, about our rocky relationship. 
I’m not even sure how you feel about me these days. You’re probably mad at me. You probably feel like you’ve become my #2, that I’m a part-time lover, that I treat you like the “side chick” as the kids say. 
It’s true. In July 2009 I left you to become a full-time educator. 
But I missed you like crazy. So I started freelancing for every newspaper, magazine and website that I could write for because I needed you.  
I know this isn’t how we imagined our life together would be when I was 15 and dreaming of starting a magazine. But I hope you’ll stick with me, nonetheless. 
And I hope the people of Birmingham, and every city, will stick with you. 
Someone in the crowd wanted to know how the local paper will be able to retain high quality content amid all the changes. Bob Sims, content director for AL.com, an online hub for news from around Alabama and another panelist at this event, said he was confident that the passion of the people who work for the news organization would ensure this.
“People work in journalism because they have a passion for good storytelling,” he said.
Good storytelling – that’s what you are, journalism, and that’s why I yearn to be called one of your own. I miss being called a journalist.
These stories may be told in different ways nowadays, but that doesn’t change who you are. You are still the field I fell in love with so many years ago.
And so I write — even if it means juggling three regular freelance gigs with a full-time teaching job and, getting an arrive of 5 hours of sleep a night. No matter what, I will write. 


Kyle Whitmire (far right)


Kyle Whitmire, another guest speaker and local politics and news reporter for The Birmingham News, shared that he was in high school when he decided he wanted to be “a newspaper man.” While he still obviously cherishes the newspaper, he is not naïve about the realities of the industry. Yet, he’s optimistic still.

“I may not end my career as a newspaper man,” he said, “but I hope I will end my career as a journalist.” 
What I’m trying to say, journalism, is I hope we can be together forever.

Yours truly,
j.


Cross-posted at The Writeous Babe Project

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