Wick Communications

BS detector detects BS, moves on

In journalism, Uncategorized on 28 May 2010 at 9:19 am

It appears one of my journalistic heroes is decamping for parts unknown. Actually, Abu Dhabi, which is pretty much unknown to me. I understand that he is leaving the United States to work for an English-language newspaper called The National.

O’Hara was the managing editor of the Palm Beach Post when I was there in the late 1990s. He was both feared and revered. He was so plain-spoken it was just plain unsettling. Later, when he left the Cleveland Plain Dealer, editor Susan Goldberg noted that he has “one of the best BS detectors in the business.” And that is true. Suffice to say, you didn’t want to be the one trying to shovel BS Tom’s way when you were a junior reporter on his staff.

Anyway, most recently Tom has been the faculty adviser to The Lantern, the student newspaper at Ohio State University. I found a podcast on the newspaper Web site that I thought reveals much about the truths he has always imparted to young journalists, yours truly included.

O’Hara tells the interviewer about his “five legged stool of journalism…”

“You have to be smart. You have to be curious…. You have to have the ability to write. You have to work harder than most people. And finally you have to be able to play well with others.”

Tom says the ability to write is undervalued in some newsrooms. “People think you can learn to write like you can learn carpentry or something,” he said. “But you can’t. Some people will never be able to learn to write because they don’t have it in them.”

Tom sounded a bit discouraged about the state of American journalism. (In a separate YouTube video, he said that he thinks the Ohio State administration considers his journalism students stupid. Hope he’s wrong about that.) But he also reminded us of why the profession is worth saving:

“I’m hoping, for the sake of the United States of America, that there will be some way to pay smart, curious, talented, hardworking people who can write to cover the news in the years ahead. How that’s going to happen, I have no idea.

“It’s an exciting, satisfying way to make a living,” he said. “Lots of fun.”

The Midwest’s loss is the Middle East’s gain.

Alert reader Deb Hershon reminded me that Abu Dhabi and Dubai are not one and the same. Which I actually knew, but nonetheless screwed up in this post originally. It’s since been fixed. Thanks, Deb.



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