Thursday, April 29, 2010

Week 2: Top 4 Good Stories

As promised, here are my top four Good Stories celebrating the Fourth Estate for this week. Good journalism IS happening and we are all the better for it. History's first draft . . . 

1. For a near perfect example of giving voice to the voiceless, and for sheer staying power (I woke up thinking about this story): "Here to Aid His Family, Left to Die on the Street" New York Times, Tuesday, April 27.

2. For shedding new light on a hot topic (but stretching my old-school brain): "Social media reshapes journalism"  the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, Saturday, April 24.

3. For great reporting from a variety of sources on a heart-felt issue (well done, Adelle!): "Legal skirmish colors National Day of Prayer"  Religion News Service, Friday, April 23. 

4. For compelling subject and inspiring story (would make a great film or book): “South Korean woman claims 14 peaks climbing record” BBC, Tuesday, April 27.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Other Side of Leadership

It's hardly news to say that ours is a culture fixated on celebrities and leaders. We elevate individuals into prominence and admire them for their leadership qualities or talents. In fact, we train our young people to aspire to such status. As a fellow journalist and educator recently wrote (and got me thinking about this), our colleges invest a lot of effort into preparing the world's next leaders. We sharpen their thinking skills so they can guide companies and hone their speaking skills so they can inspire communities. We expect them to aspire to positions of power so they can influence and shape culture. And if they're not prepared to lead by the time they graduate, no worries. There are oodles of books, videos and workshops on becoming an effective leader. As if leadership were the highest—and only—goal. Who can imagine a university advertising, "We train the next generation of followers"?!

Maybe we should.

Maybe we should teach listening instead of speaking skills. Reflection instead of strategic thinking. And for that matter, principles of following instead of leading. I'm not talking about doormat stuff here, or the mindless hoopla of mob scenes. No, I'm talking about thoughtful followers with character, integrity, patience. Those who don't feel compelled to lead a company or star in a movie, but who know—really know—their contributions are just as insignificant.

The thousands of graduates this spring entering the workplace might feel equipped to climb the ladder of success but I'm not sure they know how to hold it steadily in place so others can climb. Or want to. But we need good followers—smart, insightful and self aware citizens as much as we do leaders of the same ilk. We need those un-ambitious types who can watch the crowd swept up in the latest political movement and question its goals and language. Not because they want to take over or even join, but because questioning is the right thing to do.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

First Up: My Top Four Good Stories of the Week—April 22

It's been a busy week for journalists around the globe, but I found these four articles worthy of my inaugural "Good Story Prize" and worth a read. Like the light on this ship in the Long Island Sound, they help us see the issues a little clearer. (That might be a stretch, but I liked this photo my husband took.) They are out there . . .

     1. For old fashioned (local) inspiration:"City leaders thank 94-year-old Charlotte Blood" The Eagle Tribune, April 20, 2010 

     2. For solid reporting as a 'voice for the voiceless' on an underreported story: "Fighting in Congo Displaces 100,000 Civilians" Voice of America, April 20, 2010

3. For making potentially complicated (but certainly relevant) information accessible and interesting: "Scrapes on a Plane: A veteran pilot talks about what it's like to fly through volcanic ash" Newsweek, April 16, 2010

4. For using fun language to help shed light on an important topic: "Joe Biden, No. 1 Fan of Women's Sports" The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 20, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

This Just In: A New Prize for the Fourth Estate

Last week the 2010 Pulitzer Prizes were announced at Columbia University in NYC. There were few surprises from the major news organizations (i.e., The New York Times and The Washington Post) and thankfully some smaller papers were honored as well (i.e., Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Bristol Herald Courier). The range and scope of the stories/reporters recognized suggest to me that—despite what some might believe—there are plenty of people in journalism who still care about reporting. About coverage. About words and truth and sense-making.

Last week, I also attended a gathering of writers, not in NYC but in the mid-west. There, I heard from a few too many folks (more on that later) who seemed convinced that all mainstream journalists are biased liberals (whatever that means), out to get the rest of us. They think the media are the enemy and have deteriorated to one giant spitting machine. And admittedly, there probably are too many sensational stories in today's news for my liking. But boy, oh boy, that sure ain't the whole story. At least from where I've been sitting.

So this week, I've decided to begin my own prize. I'll call it, well, just what it is: the "Good Story" prize. Each fourth day of the week (that'd be Thursday) for the next four weeks, I'll give my Top Four Good Story Prizes, links and all, just to prove to the cranky "non-liberals" (whatever that means) that there still is some hope in what we're seeing in today's coverage. What qualifies? Good writing. Important coverage. Credible sources. You get the idea. Maybe my little experiment in four weekly prizes will help start a movement that reminds folks of this one simple truth: that we'd all be sunk without this great gift called the Fourth Estate. See you Thursday!