Wick Communications

Finding time for solutions

In journalism on 16 Jul 2018 at 8:55 am

I had been conscripted, really. It wasn’t my idea to stand before 50 or so journalists and ask them to please come be part of my group rather than one of the others forming around equally important concepts. But there I was, on a hot and sunny Portland Saturday. I knew nobody. Here goes.

“OK kind people,” I began. “How can those of us in small newsrooms, amid all the cutbacks we’ve all experienced and the new responsibilities we all have as a result, find time for solutions in addition to problems.”

It was really Solutions Journalism Network regional leader Linda Shaw’s question. I think she culled from a survey of participants at the SJN West Coast gathering on July 14. However it emerged, it was the key problem for many and many in attendance. Many of us spend too much time cataloguing problems all day, every day. How do we make the next step into leading a conversation that could change society for the better? Isn’t that what journalists are supposed to do?

Eeeeerrrrrrkkkk! Crash. (Insert your own trainwreck sound here.) Hold on a minute here. I confess that I had to wallow in that concept for a while before I got it. This “solutions” thing can sound suspiciously like advocacy. Personally, I didn’t get into journalism to push a cause. Most of us got into the business thinking that you publish the truth and it will set us all free. Folks simply will understand the president is a crook or that we need to mitigate climate change. We don’t present solutions… right? 

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On the other side of the pen

In Media, Newspapers, publishing on 7 Jun 2018 at 10:43 am

The Chronicle asked me to take a photo of our building.

Just as every doctor would learn from being a patient, every reporter ought to be interviewed once in a while. It’s instructive.

This week, I was interviewed twice. Reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle and KQED radio called to ask me about the transition of our newspaper, the Half Moon Bay Review, from an out-of-state corporation to local hands. It’s an exciting time and I primed the publicity pump with an email to the Chronicle.

So, I was pleased to hear from a Chronicle reporter. We talked for about 10 minutes and I thought she asked the right questions. The result was a 250-word take on the sale that was entirely sufficient for readers in San Francisco.

It was not, however, the story I would have written. It lacked the sweep of the tale. It didn’t cover all the points needed to truly understand how a group of readers came to purchase a newspaper, the angst as other potential buyers circled, the concern we all had for our jobs. There was originally a stray apostrophe in my quote!

In other words, it was fine. And I was getting a taste of what it’s like to have no control over my words once they were out of my mouth. I’m sure hundreds of people I’ve interviewed over the years would be pleased to know I suddenly shared their chagrin. (Editors subsequently cleaned up the story a tad and it ran in the paper two days after it appeared online.) …

Illusion of asymmetrical insight

In journalism on 16 May 2018 at 10:48 am

James and Deborah Fallows in conversation with Lenny Mendonca on May 15, 2018.

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a Commonwealth Club of Silicon Valley discussion with authors James and Deborah Fallows. (Commonwealth Club board member Lenny Mendonca invited me and I quickly accepted.) The Fallows have written a book called “Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America.”

Before I say any more, I haven’t yet read the book, which came out last week. The Fallows are thoroughly impressive people with a long list of accomplishments. They are persuasive optimists and it was an uplifting, interesting hour or so of conversation.

The premise of their book is this: Pilot a single-prop airplane into small airports the rest of us fly over. Stop in places like Greenville, S.C., and Sioux Falls, S.D. Look for stories other reporters miss. They admit — as if this is something terrible — they wanted to find stories of success and renewal in the heartland. Consequently, that’s what they found.

James Fallows is a media veteran and the writer of more than a dozen books. When he mentioned an “asymmetrical bias” as a problem for many coastal reporters, he knows of what he speaks. He maintains that “the media” thinks of large coastal cities as places of terrific innovation, dynamic arts, diverse communities — in short, all the good things for which America is known. What does the media leave for flyover country? Racism, addiction, poverty.

His critique is not without merit. Turn on the TV and watch the discussion on cable news. Before long, you’ll hear reference to this dichotomy. Red states and blue states. Us and them. Good and bad. …