Going for It: Rapid Reinvention

I've got the no more news blues

I read a story today from back when newspapers used to be newspapers and I got bluesy about what has happened to my business. That was not a good thing to do or a good state to be in when I needed to blog.

Ugh. As the sign on my desk says, I am now a blogger, which has led to tremendous change in what I do and how I do it. Once upon a time, I would have been on the telephone, interviewing sources, searching for some tidbit of news to turn into a story. I would have grabbed a notebook, driven too fast to some scene, talked to some interesting people and produced a piece, mostly  likely to appear on the Metro page of The Washington Post.

These days, I spend my mornings reading e-mails, texts and blogs, contemplating how to turn some slice of life--the opening of the new Wegmans in Prince George's County giving residents there a chance to reinvent the way they shop or former NBA great Allen Iverson trying to reinvent his career in Europe--into a column-like entry to send out over the Internet.

In a month, I will have spent a year blogging. It is completely different than anything I've done before. I am a good reporter. I am a good writer. I am not sure yet if I'm a good blogger. I'm not even sure what a good blogger is.

Those of us whose medium is the Internet ask frequently for feedback and participation. That is one of the ways we measure success. It's not enough for you to read me, I want you to also go to my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I ask you to comment on the blog or send me an e-mail. You have to work these days. You can't just read.

Many of you contact me, usually by telephone or e-mail. Often, you share something that has happened to you that is related to something I blogged about, like getting laid off, getting fired, finding a job or about dealing with an unpleasant supervisor.

I enjoy those communications, but I have to admit that after a year, I don't feel that what I do is as important as when I reported news. I still love working at a newspaper. I enjoy being part of the new incarnation of journalism. But I sometimes miss what I used to do.

I especially miss it when I read a really good news story, like the one I was reading this morning. I have a collection of favorite stories I've collected over the years and occasionally I pull one out to read. This one is a 1990 piece entitled "Anatomy of a Bullet Wound." It was written by Paul Dean, then a Los Angeles Times staff writer. It is an in-depth piece about the impact of the shooting of a man named Juan Antonio Mendez by a security guard as he allegedly attempted to rob an electronics store in Koreatown. It was a detailed, expertly reported piece that my friends and I talked about with envy and fascincation over dinner the night it came out and in the newsroom the next day at the Daily News of Los Angeles across town where I then worked. It is the kind of story that we used to see many more of back when people liked to read long, detailed, well-reported stories and newspapers had the inclination and space to publish them.

Flash forward to day when people want short stories laced with gossip, when Tiger Woods' marital troubles are better read than stories about the economy. Thus my bluesy mood.

One of my colleagues was having none of it when I whined to him and others in the office a little while ago. "Then you should report news," he said. He preached at me about what I used to do and urged me, despite the changes in the newsroom, to continue to write news. "Blog and do news," he said.

So, I'm going to think about that and talk to my boss. Will let you know how it goes. 



Avis Thomas-Lester

 |  October 25, 2010; 6:05 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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