Journalists: It’s time to be the phoenix

Submitted by jhai on Wed, 03/04/2009 – 12:24pm

Throughout the #jtmpoynter conference this week, there’s been talk about this concept of creative destruction. The imagery that evokes for me is one of a phoenix rising from the ashes.

It’s not an easy feat, being reborn. You have to put your heart and soul into cultivating yourself, learning new tools, thinking and producing on your feet, becoming well-versed in philosophy, law, economics, history, sociology, geopolitics and science so that you can ask the right questions and present the answers in a way that makes sense to people. It may be years before you see a return on your investment. Maybe you’ll never see the return. And that’s why you can’t be in it for the money.

Money is a necessity, yes, a means to an end, but money can never be the ultimate goal. We can’t let it distract us from the goal of journalism that matters: to serve our communities, fight corruption, give a voice to the voiceless, and shine a light on the truth in ways that inform the public and inspire it to action.

My mother tells me, “How rich you are isn’t measured by how much money you have. How rich you are is measured by your heart: however big a heart you have, is how big a world you can hold inside it, and that’s how rich you truly are.”

She also says, “There are two acts in this world: giving and taking. If you measure happiness by money, that means all you’ve done is take and take your whole life. You’ll never be happy because there’s always someone with more money than you. But if you measure happiness by how much you give, the more you give, the happier you are, the richer you are.”

If we carry the world on our shoulders, if we give something to our communities every day, no matter how small, each act of giving brings fulfillment and happiness. And that’s the kind of happiness that never runs out.

Open source developers are out there right now creating great things, and they’re doing it for no pay. Why? Because they’re passionate about finding solutions to a problem. I think there’s something we can learn from that.

We waste so much time worrying about money, time that should be spent worrying about the state of the world instead.

Across the country, newsrooms are closing down or teetering on the brink. Do we have the courage to keep working even after the lights go out, sacrificing our own comfort and security, to uncover solutions to the world’s problems and find a way out of the darkness? Do we have what it takes to practice journalism with a conscience?

We might not see the benefits of it in our lifetimes, but if we look beyond ourselves, if we put all our energy and passion — every last fiber of our being — into finding the truth and finding answers…

Even if the world as we know it may burn, even if the old paradigms crumble, we can be like the phoenix rising from the ashes. We can be reborn. Journalism can be reborn.