Journalism Matters: All about the devil in discovery
Long ago, a wry reporter greeted me to my new post with a story in his column about the devil taking a fresh soul on an elevator. You get to choose, the devil promised.
Down, down they went first. Hell turned out to be a country club with the best food and the best company, full of dearly departed friends and family having the time of their former lives. Endless rounds of golf, his sport, and he enjoyed every bit of the fun he’d ever had.
Then up to the penthouse to check out heaven: Clouds, robes and angels’ wings, all white, hushed, utter peace. But also deadeningly dull. There didn’t seem to be anything to do. Dear God, anything but this.
It was his choice, and naturally, the fresh soul picked the basement. So down again he went. The doors opened to hell, all right — red, molten, chains, the whole deal, miserable as you might imagine.
The devil smiled. Oh, that. That was recruitment. You’re staff now.
Welcome, the reporter wrote for his new boss, me, before we’d even met. We went on to have (mostly) wonderful adventures together for the next 17 years as colleagues and for a time, competitors.
This goes the other way, too. Buyer’s remorse is a thing. The sleek sloop encrusted below the waterline. Master artwork that turns out to be phony. And who hasn’t been taken in by a slick pitch? We don’t know, not really, until we get to work.
I’m sure some employers along my way had good reason to second guess. My last job called for the occasional sharp elbow in the comeback for a paper rapped for losing its nerve after settling a defamation suit. Not all the managers upstream appreciated my “help,” I’m sure.
I remember holding my phone at arm’s length while the poor soul who had promoted me to publisher roared, “You can’t do this!” This being a new weekly entertainment/recreation magazine we had conceived and launched within that week to beat a competitor out of the gate, skipping all the steps. “Pretty sure we just did,” I replied all too laconically, far more brazen than wise.
There’s a Will Rogers’ line about how we learn, which I won’t repeat other than noting there is a hard way concerning an electric fence some of us know all too well, metaphorically speaking.
But I can’t worry too much about things like that now. Besides, the reality here is far from hellish, and how to put this, I can’t abide myself at less than all in. That is both blessing and deep flaw, though commitment to the greater quest tends to come across. I’ve discovered this among The Park Record staff already.
Discovery. There’s the word I was looking for! It’s an attorney’s term. It’s what explorers do. A reporter’s whole job.
Preparing for court or at the foot of a last unclimbed mountain, there’s a specific thread in common. This is about learning what is real.
It’s also a liminal phase we all undergo with new moves, new jobs, new lives and for me perhaps the most pronounced of my career stops, landing at The Park Record. I’m not here only to learn how things work in and out of a newsroom, and then nudge at edges bound by inherent business forces.
To some degree, The Park Record won’t be boxed in strictly by pecuniary pressures in an era deadly to so many papers, with no true replacement for the community glue they provided.
Electrified grapevines have proven more destructive than connecting, unfortunately, and ultimately have been bad for democracy. We’ve always had the ugly aspects of mobs. Through social media they’ve metastasized, the flip of crowd wisdom.
Journalism as practiced at the community papers can be an eat-your-peas experience, sure, but the discipline in this form of discovery, with its fealty to evidence and accuracy, offers sustenance if not a sugar high.
I came to The Park Record seeing that the sky’s the limit. Discovery in part is about discerning the ceiling, whether for jet pack or space shuttle. I can work with either. The mission’s the same: Learn the ropes internally, get to know the community best I can, figure out how to match the awesome needs and demands of our role bearing witness to help society bond and thereby strengthen, basically.
Meantime, the fun part is all discovery: The trails I’m running out the door, the people I’m meeting, how new colleagues go about their work, finding places like Kamas and Woodland, Coalville and Salt Lake City (so close!), a gas station, what fall and then winter will bring.
I’ll discover skiing since I can’t bring my snowboard to Deer Valley. Bummer, but I’m embracing this. I believe humility might be the best discovery of all, the only real way to see life with truly fresh eyes. (Be sure to remind me when I’ve taken a spill.)
Don Rogers is the editor of The Park Record. He can be reached at email@example.com or 970-376-0745.
Emotion permeated the air last Friday night as snow drifted down from the heavens around Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, reflecting in the orange glow of the Olympic and Paralympic cauldron. On stage were three generations of athletes. Some of them basked in the glow of memories from the days they won their gold, silver or bronze medals, while younger future stars had big eyes from sharing moments with their heroes.
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