I had the honor last night to be on a panel with several bright and interesting people to discuss a topic that I would never have imagined being invited to discuss just a few years ago. I honestly introduced myself to the assembled crowd at the monthly meeting of the Knoxville Writer’s Guild as a failed songwriter, poet, novelist and short story writer. I can’t imagine myself as a journalist or what I do as journalism.
When I think of a journalist, I tend to think of Walter Cronkite. I know he was a news anchor, but I think of his gravitas, his sincere desire to get to the truth of the matter and communicate it in a way that its importance could not be denied. I think of a a focus on the story in a way that excludes bias. I don’t think of me.
Still, what do I call what I do? It is part journalism, but it’s journalism with a personal touch – bias and all. My readers know where I’m coming from and that makes what I have to say either more or less relevant depending on your evaluation of where I’m coming from.
The others on the panel seemed to me to have better journalistic credentials. Debra Dylan writes Knoxzine and in just a few short months has developed an impressive body of work. Laura Long owns Celebrate Knoxville, which she has operated for about three years. Her background is in journalism. Scott Barker, the Editorial Page Coordinator for the Knoxville News Sentinel is clearly a journalist.
The relationship with readers was emphasized by Debra Dylan and myself as a focal point of what we do and while our ventures are quite different, that’s a commonality, and something that separates us from traditional journalism. Ms. Long noted that her focus is a positive presentation of Knoxville. She mentioned people who want to visit or move to Knoxville as an important segment of her audience. The same is true for Inside of Knoxville, but I focus on a more comprehensive presentation of the city, warts and all, from my perspective.
Scott Barker was asked directly something many of us have been wondering: How is the News Sentinel doing now that it’s gone to a subscription service online. He indicated it has gone as they expected it to and implied that was good. Of course, he wasn’t in a position to give numbers.
All of us agreed social media really impacts our success or lack of it. I probably would not be on Facebook if it were not for this blog, but it’s massively helpful to update my FB friends and groups I belong to in order to remind them to stop by for their daily fix. I haven’t started tweeting, yet, but I probably will when my time issues ease a bit.
Regarding the future of online journalism, Laura Long quoted Ashley Capps as saying something to the effect of, “Expect much more of much less.’ It’s hard to argue with that. We have an explosion of information, but it seems to be focused on a smaller and smaller portion of our world or experience. People tend to find their small specific thing they are looking for and rarely venture into new worlds. That doesn’t sound so good.
On the other hand, I think some of the online sites, like this one, hopefully, connect people who share a common passion and help build community. When people come together, good things happen. And people coming together is one of the things I emphasized. You guys have given me much more than I’ve given you. The connections I’ve made, the small windows into the lives of the people who have been featured here and many others who haven’t; these are the things that matter. And that’s better than being a real journalist.
A special thanks goes out to Carole Borges who turned my camera right back on me and did a very good job in a tough house.
I hope you all have a great weekend. I plan on hanging out with Urban Girl this evening, catching the Winter Market at the Southern Railway Station and enjoying Fiction at the Square Room. Shout out a “hello,” if you see me.