Friday, April 4, 2014

Journalism: Why We Do It

It's been a long week for our staff - and a new baby in our editor's house, the horrendous news of the McCutcheon decision by the Supreme Court, and the shooting at Ft. Hood didn't make it any shorter.

When you add in stories from this week about pure political stupidity  - like Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King's latest affront to immigrants willing to give their lives in the U.S. military, or the insanely stupid idea of "Cuban Twitter" attempted by the USAID organization - we sometimes wonder why we fight so hard to work in the media.

We draw cartoons, write, edit, publish, and produce at least five days a week, and someone on our staff is usually working 18 hours of every day. Even in our off time, we're often thinking of what we'll do next, reaching out to professional contacts, working for our next contract, or practicing and improving our skills.

So when we read about a talented media figure like David Letterman retiring in 2015, our initial reaction is usually, "Well done," often followed closely by, "Must be nice to retire." Retiring, however, is different than losing your job because some corporate executive idiot somewhere has absolutely no idea how to run a media business.

As we read yesterday afternoon, 167 more members of the media, are facing unemployment at the Newark New Jersey Star-Ledger newspaper and their nationally-known news website, nj.com. As Paul has of lampooned in multiple cartoons over the years, editors who know how to write and do layout had better learn to draw and take photos too.

Thousands of employees of Barnes & Noble, the nation's only remaining large-scale bookseller, can also expect to receive similar news over the next few years. For people who love books, magazines, newspapers, and physical media of nearly every kind - most of our staff included - the fact that there is only one major bookseller left nationwide is almost too painful to contemplate.

If you want to know why we still do what we do, why we fight so hard to work in media, to do it right, our reasons are really quite simple.

Our reasons include a young lady who's a hell of seamstress, a young man who's a lawyer and also writes great fiction, and a young woman with an eye for interior design. We've got dogs, and kids, and fantastic neighbors and friends, some of whom do crazy things - like throw a grand Husker picnic in South Florida, at the cusp of spring, complete with Runzas and Valentino's pizza, and other tastes of home.

We also still keep working in this industry, after many years, because we know that, as members of the media, we make a difference for all those people we care about. The McCutcheon decision by the Supreme Court this week moved America dangerously far into the political territory of oligarchy. But folks like Clarence Thomas and the Koch Brothers still didn't get their wish this week that all regulations on campaign finance be removed.

It's also important that 80% of Americans agree that Americans should get rid of as much money from politics as possible. That's a statistic reported by the New York Times, and collected from multiple independent media polls. That's also the kind of journalism that reminds both us and oligarchs like the Koch Brothers that Americans overwhelmingly side with us, not them.

As long as people like us help people like you fight for what's right, those people who wish to be the new American oligarchs may keep trying to pile on the work, and make the rest of America their indentured slaves - but they'll never fully reach their goal. Which means people like that seamstress, that lawyer, that interior designer, and our other neighbors and friends can enjoy life - and those kids can have a future.

Getting a chance to make that much of a positive contribution to the world everyday, just by showing up for work? And getting to generate a few laughs along the way? Yeah… We'll be back to work on Monday.