Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What do PETA and journalism have in common?

“There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.” - Acts 4:34-35

Don’t you wish we could live in such unity as this?

I have a hard time understanding the audacity of some people. Here is an e-mail I received today from a woman who I consider a pillar of the community. She has e-mailed me before,
informing me she is not happy with reading the news online (which I’m not sure why she was reading the news online because she had a subscription, but I definitely give her credit for trying something she did not want to do): “If I could get your north central reporter to take my password I could at least read the news part of the time, thanks for making it sooooooooooo hard. really sorry I ever paid to subscribed.”

She did not pay to subscribe online. She paid for a print subscription. Guess she didn’t like that, either, but did she need to say all that?

At least she signed her name.

I received this letter – with no name or return address – in the mail today: “I do not have a computer, no e-mail and I do not buy on line and neither do I want to read a paper on line. When all the retailers are gone will be a sad sad day. No churches – watch it on TV. I have certainly enjoyed your paper as I have purchased it regularly at United Grocery. I will miss it. I guess it saves me 50 cents a week but I am disappointed and certainly regret your decision. /s/ Blackwell customer. I personally hope people find things to do besides sit at a computer all day.”

I hope people find things to do besides sit at a computer all day, too, but I’m not sure why she regrets a decision made by me. I had to giggle a little at those statements. I always find humor in nasty notes. I’ve written my fair share of nasty notes, I suppose, but I’d like to think I was upset about something more than a computer – although computers are cause enough for complete insanity. I also was brave enough to sign my name.

I guess some people might not identify with a newspaper actually being run by actual people. They might not consider that on the other end of that nasty note and trivial complaint is a real, live human being wrestling with her own emotions about the complaint itself and how it came about in the first place.

I also consider the mass of congratulatory e-mails and notes of appreciation I have received not only in the last few days but during the last four years – more than that, really. I have saved every card and note I’ve received since my first journalism job – staff writer for the Northwestern News. I’m not sure that I got any notes that semester, but if I did, they are in a box in the attic with everything else I saved from college.

At least now, I can breathe a sigh of relief knowing I don’t have to upset anyone anymore by going completely online with the newspaper.

I just put the last page of The North Central Reporter to bed – to sleep permanently. I felt a heavy load lifted as soon as I saw that last upload bar read “100%.” Bitter-sweet, like when you’re kids get too heavy to carry, and you can’t wait until they can walk on their own, but then you kind of miss having them in your arms.

I will miss aspects of the newspaper – the news part, anyway. I will not miss selling ads, editing photos, preparing statements, sorting through receipts, trying to think of new ways to produce revenue with a weary tool. I’m afraid that’s what newspapers are becoming – weary tools. People don’t understand their use anymore. To most, they serve as cheap bird cage liners after the court filings and obits have been scanned.

Fortunately, the news itself doesn’t have to depend on “paper” to make an impact.

Some people get the terms “newspaper” and “journalism” confused. Newspaper sales may be declining, but journalism is mighty – and growing.

Self-taught, at-home writers who get bashed for calling themselves journalists might not be perfect, but many of them are giving it a good college try. Some are not. Some are just wreaking havoc, but that happens in every profession.

Those who understand journalism and know how it is supposed to work will make much greater impacts than those who do not.

True reporters can relate to this equation: journalism is to open government as PETA is to our furry friends.

I’ve spent years trying to wrap my arms around this profession. I don’t know if I ever will. The more I learn about it, though, the more I love it. I am glad to say I am a journalist – a paperless journalist, yes, but a journalist at the beginning of a road with endless possibilities.


Oh, and I did read today, but I’m not counting the days anymore. For those of you just joining in, I started a one-year Bible reading plan on Dec. 31. I’m posting my readings each day:

Matthew 4:1-11

Acts 4:23-37

Psalm 7

Genesis 18-20

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