What can I contribute to journalism?
It's a question I’ve been asking for years now.
My questioning has taken a variety of forms, including:
- writing and editing for my high school and college newspapers,
- hosting a weekly podcast with analysis of the local news,
- blogging as a media critic,
- serving on the local daily paper’s editorial board,
- having letters to the editor accepted in local and national publications,
- working professionally to advise and support some of the biggest news publishers on the web,
- helping to organize a three-day national conference for publishers, and
- researching business models for local journalism.
I’ve been rewarded and challenged in all of those things, and in most cases I’ve been told that I’ve made a positive difference. And yet...I feel more concerned than ever about the waning appreciation for journalism and pursuit of the truth in modern society. I also feel more drawn than ever to trying to do something (else) about it.
So I am. I’m now enrolled in a Master's in Journalism program at Ball State University, and my first class started last week. Yay!
Do I have questions about this decision? Oh yes I do. They include wonderings like: who in their right mind "goes into" journalism these days? If I'm a generalist what will this prolonged level of focus on one subject feel like? Do I really need a degree to contribute to journalistic endeavors? Does journalism need another white man involved? Exactly where in my schedule will I fit my studies? And so on.
On that last point it seems worth saying that I don't expect this adventure to detract from my full-time work at Automattic. In fact, given all that Automattic's products and services bring to the world of publishing and journalism, and our more direct contributions to supporting and facilitating robust news reporting, I hope what I learn in my degree program will complement the work I do there. There seems to be general agreement that, for better or worse, the tech and journalism worlds are more intertwined than ever.
But it's true that I don’t exactly know where this journey is taking me. At the very least I hope it challenges me, helps me see the world from new perspectives, and makes me a better storyteller in my own life, projects and community.
I’m excited and energized.