Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Giving to the Next Generation of Reporters

Recently, I watched (again) the Russell Crowe movie that came out last year, "State of Play." The film is really a memorial to the state of journalism, to the need for local reporters to monitor the powers that be, to ensure democracy, to verify every detail of every story in order to provide the public the information they need to make their own decisions about the truth of those who represent them. Or are suppose to. It's an intense big-city story set in the backdrop of the halls of Congress, but the real inspiration of the film was not the Hollywood-ized version of investigative political journalism. The real inspiration reminded me of something I've seen time and again in my own community north of Boston.

Here's what I mean: Russell Crowe's character—a tough but nice enough veteran reporter—took on a young cub and mentored her through one of the biggest and most important stories their paper ever published. This mentorship theme in the film might have emerged for me because I was watching it with young journalists. But I think it really came straight out of our local communities.

Last month, for instance, a veteran reporter from the Salem News dropped by my journalism class to interview students for a story (and show 'em how it's done) as well as offer encouragement for the "best job in the world." (Thanks, Steve!) A local editor for a weekly visited our class two weeks ago and gave them a sort of Top 10 list of do's and don'ts for writing in a way that serves the public. (Thanks, Dan!) Today, another editor from the local daily gave the next generation of journalists more good reasons to keep going, to pursue truth and in so doing, to offer measured—not sensationalistic—coverage of important issues. (Thanks, Dave!)

And I know of other young journalists this fall who have called, e-mailed or visited award-winning reporters and editors in their newsrooms to pick their brains. Whether a Globe reporter, a magazine editor, a television anchor, all of these professionals took time out of their demanding schedules to answer questions from aspiring reporters. By so doing, I'm convinced their generosity is ensuring good reporting in the future. Because every time they engage a young person, they're investing in the truly noble work of journalism—one that is mutually beneficial and equally inspiring. That's fruit that will last long after the credits roll.