Monday, May 18, 2009

Newsweek's News, and Mine

In its May 18 issue (on stands last week, God love the publishing industry's little quirks) Newsweek had some 'insider' news - that Anna Quindlen is stepping aside and the magazine is about to unveil a brand new design, on thicker paper, and sans celebrity 'news.'

I was as happy about the latter as I was unhappy about Quindlen's announcement. I noted that she carefully didn't use the word "retiring;" and also, as usual, her essay was both lucid and enlightening.

As news should be. Because really, "just the facts, ma'am" is just a slogan. The news business is, always has been, always better be, an information industry - meaning the facts come with some sort of analysis.

This point was made, many times, very eloquently, and never redundantly, at an Ohio Professional Writers meeting held at WKSU on Saturday. Celebrated columnist Connie Schultz made it most eloquently, I thought, when she directed her message to the youngest attendees, a dozen or so high school and college students.

Schultz warned the young journalist to not get lost in the busy-ness of the business. To take time off amid the hustle and bustle of an industry that seems to demand 160-character stories be filed every 30 seconds. Take time off, she said, because it's the only way to preserve your sanity and physical health (this message was very brief, of course; what 20-year-old really knows they'll be 40 someday?) and because it will make you a better communicator. A little life experience - getting drunk with friends counts! - helps a young cub grow up and into someone mature enough to ferret out the facts and present them fairly, regardless of one's own personal interpretation; a person who can then turn around and offer a logical and informed analysis.

At its best, the news business does that. In my hopes and prayers, it will continue to do so here in the good ol' USA and beyond.

So good luck, Newsweek. Count me among your readers who look forward to the 'new you.'

As for the 'new me,' there isn't one, but I am renewed. Since I was laid off in February, I've had time to worry, take on too many freelance assignments to be good for me, and consider seriously a mid-life career change.

I'm staying. That's the news for now. After I've had a chance to drink this over with a few friends, I'll be ready to analyze it.

*OPW is an affiliate of the National Federation of Press Women, which is open to both genders.

No comments: