Best journalism involves digging

While attending the recent New Mexico Press Women Convention (open to everyone) in Albuquerque, I heard several panelists discuss the state of journalism.

With so many competing news sources, staff sizes have been sliced. Thousands of veteran journalists have lost their jobs, with newspapers and

Wendel Sloan

Wendel Sloan

broadcast media often retaining less experienced and lower paid reporters.

Editors and news directors no longer have the luxury of assigning seasoned reporters to stories requiring in-depth research.

Despite these obstacles, Alan Webber, former candidate for New Mexico governor and co-founder and former co-owner of “Fast Company,” which became the fastest-growing magazine in the country and sold for $360 million in 2000, offered tips for reporters on uncovering what matters.

His advice also seems to have a wider relevance.

“If you ask the wrong question, you will get the wrong answer,” Webber said. “The right question is more important than the right answer.”

A former editor of the “Harvard Business Review,” Webber said, “The lens you are wearing determines what you see.” You have to put aside preconceived notions.

He encouraged news organizations to dig for the story behind the story.

Crime stories are so prominent because they attract a larger audience, which increases advertising revenue.

Although not as sexy as “if it bleeds it leads” crime, but having more impact on people’s lives, are obscure persons who have solutions to ongoing problems. Seldom interviewed, journalists should seek them out.

“It’s not news, but it’s journalism,” said Webber. “There are people in your community who are invisible solution providers.”

Webber said we “spend too much time thinking about success and not significance.”

The media play an absolutely critical role in rooting out unfairness, corruption and the abuse of power, Webber says.

He used the movie “Spotlight” about pedophile priests as an example.

“Everybody knew about them, but nobody wrote about them until the ‘Boston Globe’ dared to investigate. The silence of acquiescence is not acceptable,” Webber said.

“It is journalists’ jobs to ask why things are the way they are.”

Contact Wendel Sloan at wendel.sloan@yahoo.com