Blog: News pizzas and the end of Lent

Blog: News pizzas and the end of Lent

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News pizza

The news pizza: All the news and no anchovies.

Wrapping up my 40-days-of-Lent blog posts now. This has been an interesting experiment; just writing, whether I want to, whether I feel like it, or whether I really have something to say or not.

I can't tell whether it's been good at priming the writing pump or not, and I also don't know whether any readers have come away with anything they didn't have before. I have a hard time believing anyone actually cares why my favorite color is turquoise blue, or that I can't make heads nor tails of the lyrics of "New World in the Morning." (Seriously, a little help with that? Please?)

It's hard to come up with reasons to write: The Princesses are old enough now that they don't do nearly as many cute kid things anymore, and they have their own lives — ones I don't want to pull into the light of print when they might not be willing to share. 

It's hard to write much about my job, because what I think about this or that story isn't what I want the reader to take away. And I've never been a fan of politics, necessary an evil though they may be. 

All of that leaves me with — what? Books I've read lately? Check. "The Worst Hard Time." Blog post written. Movies I've seen? Check. The 5-Cent Critic weighs in regularly. Special events? Check and check; I wrote about the wiffle ball home run derby at our office to mark baseball's Opening Day, the 150th anniversary section we worked on and the "wax museum" story I covered at Pioneer School. Once those are over, you're stuck reading my random musings about song lyrics and the fight I once had with my college physics professor. Ain't much else to fall back on.

The whole idea of blog posts, originally, was to link our reading audience with we reporters, I guess as a way of making us into Real People, or something like that. Sharing things about our job that we found interesting but that wouldn't make their way into the news pages. It's also about driving traffic to our website, certainly, but I don't think that's any different than now than ever. Back in the days when print was all that existed, people wrote personal columns. They still do.

One thing I've done with blog posts on occasion is try to remind people of the reason we (meaning "the media") exist. That's a topic I've hit many times before, but I think it's a message worth repeating. 

I shared these same thoughts with the class I'm teaching at Oregon State, pre-empting what I figure will be the inevitable question about why they should ever consider a career in media writing (not that they are — most of them are just there to fill a hole in their graduation requirements and this was a good time slot).

I told them to think about an emergency situation. For timeliness and impact's sake, I chose last fall's shooting at Umpqua Community College.

Pretend for a minute, I said, that all the communication channels we have now still exist — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. — but there is nothing we call "the media" using them. No CNN. No Fox. No Huffington Post. No Democrat-Herald. What do you think you'd read, hear, see?

A lot of chaos, at first; and indeed, we did see that. A lot of rumors and I-heards. 

Evenutally, however, I said, some factual information would start to emerge. Maybe it would come from UCC, maybe the sheriff's office, maybe one of the witnesses, I don't know, but the dust would start to settle around just a handful of credible sources. People with the facts. People who really knew. People who could say, "Yes, this is how many people shot, this is how many people hurt, this is how many people gone, this is what happened to the shooter, this is what the school is going to do, etc." 

In other words, someone would take on the role of the media.

In other words, someone would invent us. 

Because that's the way it is. The public needs us. They need a source for timely information they know they can trust. 

The problem with not having us is that other people have their own jobs. Yes, the voices would have come forward at UCC, or any other time, but eventually, they wouldn't have time to follow the story anymore. They'd have to go back to their college job or their deputy job or their gas station job or whatever it is that keeps them from pursuing and sharing information on a full-time basis, which is what we do.

That's really all it is. You don't "need" us, the media, per se. I know I just said you do, but you really don't, as long as you have the time and interest yourself. We are just regular joes, like you. You don't have to wait for us to tell you who the police arrested yesterday or what the fire engines were doing last weekend or whether your water rates are going up again. Those are public records for a reason. You can read arrest reports and fire calls and attend city council meetings yourself.

But you know what? I bet you don't have the time to. 

The problem is, neither do we, unless you pay us. We can't afford to work for free. 

It's like having a pizza delivered, I told my students. It isn't hard to make pizza. A lot of people make their own. You can, too. But sometimes you just don't feel like it. You want to have a pizza delivered so you don't have to do it yourself. And so you call up the pizza guy.

The problem with that is that enough people have to want pizza from time to time to justify having a pizza delivery place in your neighborhood. Enough people have to be ordering pizzas to pay the delivery guy to stay on staff.

That's the way it is for newspapers, too: You can gather your news-pizza ingredients yourself, anytime you want, but if you'd rather we did that for you, and cooked them up into a tasty news-pizza to be delivered to you, well, we expect you to pay for it. That's why we have a paywall on our website and a coin slot in our paper boxes and a circulation department that handles subscriptions. 

That's why we do what we do. And yes, we ask you to pay, so we can keep doing it.

That's how I'll wrap up this Lent challenge: with the reminder of who we are and what we do, and why.

I will likely continue to write a blog post from time to time, but probably not on a daily basis. More often than not, I'd rather you heard from myself and my colleagues about what's going on in the world, not what's going on in my head.

But I hope you will keep reading, even if you have to pay to do so.

— Jennifer Moody is glad Lent is over and is ready to rise from her keyboard.

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