Apologies, and (perhaps) a sign of change

For those looking for new items today, we're sorry. There's an adundance of life change here in Flyoveristan. One of us is rearing a newborn baby. One is writing, like, four books concurrently. The other just got married. And I'm in the middle of relocating for a new job.

On that note, I've talked a lot about the brain drain in daily newspaper journalism. Now I'm a part of that trend. Many of my colleagues, peers and friends here at the Savannah Morning News have defected from newspapers entirely. Here's a list, written off the cuff, of places people have ended up going to.

• One reporter has gone to direct an education nonprofit in New Orleans
• One editor has gone to head up an economics and poverty nonprofit in Savannah
• Another reporter left to become the PR flack for the city of Savannah
• Another editor left to write for magazines on the West Coast
• A reporter quit to be a communications director for a Midwestern think tank
• A web designer resigned to work for a marketing firm
• Another web designer left for another marketing firm
• A designer quit newspapers to design for a scuba diving magazine
• Another designer quit to work for the PGA
• And a sportswriter quit newspapering to work for a local TV station

There are two reporters and one designer I can think of who have gone on to other daily newspapers, but that's it. Most have left the industry completely, likely not to return.

For me, I'm taking a different route. Effective Oct. 17, I'll be the arts editor for the Charleston City Paper, the indepedent weekly newspaper of news, issues and the arts in Charleston, S.C.

It's a newspaper that requires creativity, innovation, intelligence and good narrative writing.

It's a newspaper that has a tradition of speaking truth to power, saying what needs saying and analytic journalism, a concept I've written about numerous times.

It's a newspaper that puts the arts at the center of its editorial mission -- and that means reviewing, reviewing, reviewing in the mode of literary criticism, not propaganda writing.

It's a newspaper that provides an informed, critical, educated and dissenting point of view, whether the issue in question about art or politics or the proper way to prepare, serve and eat Lowcountry Boil (a hash of shrimp, sausage, potatoes, corn and spices -- required eating around these parts).

It's a newspaper that is postmodern in the sense that it makes room for all kinds of writing styles, points of view, subject matter and whatever -- as long as it's good, which is the point at which it breaks from the school of postmodern thought.

It's a newspaper willing to make a judgment, take a stand, stake out the moral, ethical and aesthetic high, middle and low ground, draw a line in the sand, say that this is good and this isn't and here's why and what do you think, dear and valued reader?

It is a newspaper that aims for solidary with the community more than authority over it, though it is not naive enough to think for a second that it doesn't have authority of some measure. That authority, however, comes not from standing watch over the gates of mass media but instead from earning it with our collective creativity, sense of humor, intelligence and sweat.

Another way of putting it: It's a newspaper that sees the necessity of someone sticking his dick in the mash potatoes.

One should always be cautious about the extent to which one's personal experience reflects larger social currents. But I can't help thinking that this brain drain and my move to a newspaper that reflects in its editorial mission all the many things we've talked about here in Flyover -- thinking smaller, thinking local, engaging the community while leading it, fearless and informed criticism, investigative and narrative pieces, valuing what's good without the Pre-Hippie hang ups about "unreconstructed" privilege and socio-economic difference -- are prescient.


There are so many changes happening in the daily world. Hopefully, after the dust settles and everyone can see more clearly, daily newspapers will pick up on some of these ideas and ways of thinking. MinnPost is already going in that direction. Meanwhile, I can't wait for things to change. I have a life to lead. Maybe someday I'll return to dailies, but I suspect it won't be for a while. Till then, I'll write to you from Charleston.

September 18, 2007 7:56 AM |



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