Canceled and delayed flights over the weekend gave me plenty of time to reflect on the four days I had just spent at the American Society of Newspaper Editors annual meeting in Washington, DC.
Each year several hundred editors gather to talk about current industry issues and share ideas. This year, the conference was tightly focused on the two biggest issues facing every newsroom in the country: protecting First Amendment freedoms, and accelerating the transition to online news reporting.
Unlike some past conferences, the tone and mood this year were more optimistic. Resolved, I’d say. One of my McClatchy Co. colleagues, David Zeeck (editor of The News Tribune in Tacoma), opened the conference with an inspiring speech, full of optimism and reminders of what a newspaper owes its community. You can read other conference coverage from the ASNE Reporter, a tabloid produced daily by a staff of student journalists.
I came back from Washington resolved to ratchet up the energy we expend at The Eagle on public service reporting. Or whatever name you want to give it: investigative reporting, watchdog journalism, accountability reporting. The First Amendment exists because the Constitution’s authors recognized the need for an independent press to provide oversight of government and other institutions. The Eagle needs to more consistently serve that role.
The other urgent need on the horizon is for us to use our new Web platform to expand reader interaction with the newspaper. I don’t like the phrase of the moment — "citizen journalism." But I agree with conference panelist Jennifer Carroll (VP/new media content for the Gannett Co.) that readers are experts in their own right and we need to more aggressively seek their contribution to our news reporting.
The conversation in Washington offered much to provoke thought and discussion in newsrooms and with readers. These are the ideas occupying my thoughts today, and I wanted to share them with you.