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The present moment, like the Spotted Owl or the Sea Turtle, has become an endangered species. Yet more and more I find that dwelling in the present moment, in the face of everything that would call us out of it, is our highest spiritual discipline.
 - Philip Simmons, Learning to Fall
Slow and steady wins the race…
Nine-year-old on learning to rollerblade, but still co-motivating when it comes to living, doesn’t it?
Preserving our individual freedoms requires collective action.
President Barack Obama - How you react to this line probably defines how you see government. 

A professional journalist is…

Should journalists donate time and money to causes?  It’s a question posed by Judith Smelser. Start by thinking about two other questions: How do you define professional conduct and how do you define your own priorities.

A professional journalist isn’t asked to be a monk or a high priest. She’s asked to conduct herself in a thorough manner to reveal the truth in the fairest way possible given the constraints of time and access. The journalist must pay homage to the idea that each topic has not two sides, but many sides… and allow them all to flourish in reporting. She must apply a forensic scientists zeal to seeking out facts that illuminate. The idea that journalists must remove themselves from being a part of the living doesn’t factor into this equation.

That leads to the second question. If your ethos demands that you are part of a community, then you ought to live the way your heart demands. If you believe that you don’t live to work…. then you orient yourself as befits someone who is part of the world. 

Don’t get me wrong, many in journalism believe that hewing to something called “objectivity” means never doing or saying anything that might show you have positions or thoughts or beliefs. Jim Lehrer has said he doesn’t vote because that might somehow betray an objectivity that must lie at the heart of who he is. But perhaps the fairness and professionalism of a journalist ought to lie in the product of his work. Maybe the idea of being fair ought to derive from the openness of the reporter and the fairness of that person’s reporting process. In a way, maintaining a public neutrality is far easier than making sure the work you do is fair to the truth. The former feels a bit like public relations, while the latter is product of … a professional. 

When I didn’t resist, I could see the world.
Pema Chödrön (via trentgilliss)

No couple with kids is safe from his instruction: Cherish every moment with your children.

This lament is natural, but not helpful because, unless you are a total brute, the sense of loss is inevitable, no matter what kind of parent you are. If you neglect your kids, you look up and they have grown and you’ve missed it. If you are fully present in their lives, then when they’ve grown you lament the hole they’ve left in your life. Either way, you’ve done your job and now they’re off backpacking out of cellphone range or making girls with unruly hair laugh in coffee shops.

The answer has to be avoiding the lament and focusing on the product.

~John Dickerson, from his excellent piece in Slate on returning to full-time parenting after 16 months on the campaign trail.

As a father of two boys, now seven and five, this passage I know to be true in the most inhumane way. It’s the beauty and joy and heartbreak of raising these magnificent, free-thinking little creatures who are more amazing than I’ll ever be.

(via trentgilliss)

(via trentgilliss)

We’re all Jodie Foster now…

Thanks to the ubiquity of the Internet, I heard actress Jodie Foster’s speech accepting an award at the Golden Globes last weekend without having to actually see the Golden Globes. Tweets let me to the speech that some called rambling.

Well, one person’s rambling talk could be another’s thoughtful musing.

Foster spoke about her life (befitting the receipt of a lifetime achievement award) and touched on a number of subjects, including some very personal ones. For instance, Foster talked in a halting way about her sexual lifestyle.

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She also talked about privacy. Foster grew up under the spotlight, having been a child actress who has now worked 47 of her 50 years subjected to movie publicity apparatus. Because of this, she said she had to fight for the right to remain private and learned to cherish that privacy. 

"Someday in the future, people may look back and remember how beautiful it once was," she said.

Maybe that time is here, thanks to the tools of the web. Maybe we’re all Jodie Foster now.

We willingly put up on our Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr pages a chronicle of our lives … photos and thoughts once left for scrapbooks and journals. We leave a public record for all to see. One day it is your friends, the next day it could be thousands who want to know about you because you’re in the center of some news event. The 15 minutes never had so much to work with.

And we don’t know what to make of it. The recent posting of gun permits by my hometown Journal News newspaper reveals what we can reveal, and seemed to provoke outrage among many. And yet so much more has become public due to technology and our willingness to gobble it up. We don’t even know what to be outraged by (I’d go on - buy the New York Times’ Bill Keller does a much better job).

As a journalist myself, I want to say that we’re a new and more open society, and make that sound like a good thing. Yet we also must realize that powerful forces, ones who might want to control the desires and actions of people, even just a little bit, can also manipulate this new information spewing machine. Is this a good?

We can broadcast ourselves now. We need to understand that what we broadcast is now our choice and accept that what goes public no longer remains just ours. We must make our choice to expose ourselves via technology without fear or to, as Jodie Foster put it, fight to remain private.

And the next battleground might be what the powerful forces can broadcast about you without your knowledge.

We take up the task and the burden eternal …. pioneers, O pioneers
W. Whitman (now discover pioneers of 2013)

Patience requires strength and, often, the support of those we rely on. Reach out for that support.

So where will beauty strike you? Will you notice it when it does? How often do you let the scenery glide by without noticing? Make a point not to let that happen today.

The terror… not of the dentist’s office itself, but of what the dentist will tell you.

Stop complaining... start participating 

Like the writer, I weary of those who want to tune out of the election because it is negative… or (as the writer puts it) it’s just another election choosing between the lesser of two evils. She’s from the left… but it could come from any place on the political spectrum.

Stop whining, take the action that democracy allows. Listen, think, debate, vote.

Thoughts on the news media’s future

I am allowed the chance at American Public Media and Minnesota Public Radio to work with others trying to find new ways of getting news information out to an audience. I was recently asked to guess at the future of the newsroom. Here’s what I wrote:

The future newsroom – A networked reality

Let’s dispense with one myth about the future of journalism right off the bat: That a world where anyone can publish information means the end of the professional journalist.

Sure, a visit to a media-watcher website like Romenesko  - with its almost daily posts about newsroom layoffs and industry tumult - could give an impression that the professional journalist’s days are numbered.

Then you read a survey by the Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) asking people about their preferences when it comes to getting news. Nearly two-thirds of respondents agreed with the following statement: “I prefer news stories produced by professional journalists”

When asked if they agree with the statement “news is news; it doesn’t matter to me who produced it,” nearly the same percentage said no.

So while audiences eagerly swim in the Internet’s sea of information, they see a role for the full-time practitioners telling stories. This is an opportunity.

The newsroom of the future seizes this opening by perfecting a new emphasis for reporters and editors - one where journalists become sense-makers of information, context providers of momentary events and arbiters of information supported by fact.

Up until the Internet revolution, journalists may have claimed these roles. But, in reality, they relegated them secondary pursuits behind the need to “feed the beast” by producing event-driven reporting and breaking stories because they were easiest to do.

But thanks to that great change agent, the Internet, and the digital tools at our disposal, newsrooms should no longer fear making sense-making a priority.

Newsrooms have more to do in establishing how they will participate in new world of Internet information. They will, in fact, come to embrace the idea of a networked newsroom.

This requires journalists to embrace a “call and response” type of reporting, one that taps into the previously untouched reservoir of audience intellect and expertise. RJI fellow and visiting professor Joy Mayer shows the untapped gaps in graphic form – where news users help the journalist through the reporting and editing phases and then the news producers actively seek out, and sift through, audience reactions after the story is told.

This more networked journalist communicates day-to-day activities in a public way. She will write posts as reporting develops. He will produce fuller stories and point back to material produced by him or others as support. The networked journalist will query those who have a connection to the news using all means possible. She has a beat - but that beat becomes a daily conversation around a topic.

The networked journalist also understands they are no longer defined as “print” reporters or “radio” reporters, but instead tell stories through all media forms. And he knows to deploy a mode of expression when it serves the story-telling best and when it serves the conversation around his beat coverage.

And the networked newsroom understands that people can easily put themselves in silos of information, consuming what satisfies their world view. Social media can exacerbate this. So this newsroom takes the initiative and becomes an active convener of cross-community conversations. These newsroom leaders know that “community” isn’t just defined by place, but by circumstance or interest.

This newsroom takes the time to explain why learning from those outside your worldview will advance your own understanding. And they set ground rules for meaningful expression. And these journalists do this while providing “a foundation of fact and context” so that discussions will inform. (That’s a notion coming directly from The Elements of Journalismby Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel).

This newsroom of the future has left behind what Dan Gillmor, director of the Knight Center for Digital Media, called the model of journalism that “produces and distributes” and now participates in a “come and get it” approach.

And far from the death of the professional journalist, the networked newsroom will require practitioners that convene as they report, communicate as they learn, collaborate as they explain.

» What the struggles of Homicide Watch say about journalism, startups and legacy newsrooms 

DC’s Homicide Watch provides depth and context in the reporting of crimes. They have tried to market their unique template to other news organizations.  But few have picked it up.

Now the operators have taken to Kickstarter in the hopes of keeping it afloat.

Clay Shirky’s write-up has a lot to say about innovation in journalism, how startups struggle and how legacy newsrooms really embrace new change. 

Okay Italians and Italian-American folks… what do you think of the name of this food offering at the Minnesota State Fair? I know that my grandpa would have furrowed his brow at the sight. 

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