Journalism’s challenges all come back to this

October 17, 2018 01:30

We’ve written before about what Murrow Award winners have in common: technical expertise, collaboration, ethics, engagement.

But there’s a more fundamental commonality: Murrow Award winners are stories that serve.

Behind every winning story is a person, a family, a community sharing a challenge in the hopes that others will overcome.

Approach every story as if it can be a winning story, Washington Post video reporter Dalton Bennett said recently at an EIJ panel of Murrow Award winners.

That means approaching every source, every community member as a person with a multifaceted and valuable story. It means working to build trust, one person at a time.

Take Murrow Award winner Aaron Henkin’s approach on WYPR podcast “Out of the Blocks,” which, he said at the panel, is all about “letting people share the stories that are important to them.”
 
Poynter teacher Roy Peter Clark wrote that good writing is like a window pane: It makes ideas and emotions clear without being noticed itself.

Good journalism is like a mirror: It makes our communities’ strengths and challenges clear without drawing attention to itself.

Many Murrow Award winners’ first thought on hearing the good news is to thank the people who participated in the story, to share its impact on the people involved, and that’s a good instinct.

It’s about the people.

Heather Bryant, Director of Project Facet argues that simple fact is an all-to-often overlooked key to journalism and its future. She said in a recent Medium post:

“The future of journalism is and always will be people. The thing that will save journalism is people. The ones in our newsrooms and the ones outside our newsrooms. People from all kind of backgrounds and perspectives. People who seek to use their voice to empower others. People who work together. Our future depends on how we treat them, how we include or exclude them, how we represent and serve them and how we invest in them.”

Much of news industry research and attention these days is focused on digital innovation, business models, maximizing resources and rebuilding trust.

But “innovation isn’t cosmetic,” researcher Deb Wenger said in an EIJ session on the future of news. It’s about changing the relationship between journalists and audiences.

As Bryant argues, the crux of all these challenges rests on how journalists interact with the people we serve.

That’s something that doesn’t need to come from a research report or corporate initiative. It starts with you, today, in your newsroom, with the next person you call or ask to interview on the street.

With that in mind, your next story could become a Murrow Award winner, too. But even more importantly, it will be a story that serves.