Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles’


Pushing back against the journalism brain drain

The email from Mr. Anonymous arrived in my mailbox one recent morning.

He wanted me to look into overcrowding in one of the local high schools where some classes had as many as 40 kids, he claimed.

“PLEASE INVESTIGATE THIS as you are our only hope,” the anonymous tipster wrote. “YOU CAN HELP OUR STUDENTS. PLEASE DO SO.”

The story will get done. But the email and its plaintive plea made me wonder: What would happen if I was not covering this inner city school district?

I don’t have a lot of competitors on my beat. Sadly, with the cutbacks that newspapers have been forced to make in recent years, there are many school districts and city halls that are not getting the attention we once paid to them.

Later that same morning, other emails followed with news of more layoffs of fellow journalists in Los Angeles, St. Louis and Dallas. It would appear that the cuts that have decimated our industry in recent years are far from over.

I can relate closely to the situation of my colleagues who lost their jobs, having been in that position myself when the Rocky Mountain News closed in February 2009.

As troubling as the numbers are for our industry, there is a secondary kind of loss under way.

Within SPJ’s ranks in recent months, we’ve seen some of the best and brightest people leave the field of journalism for jobs outside the profession.

I think of former SPJ President Clint Brewer, one of my role models, who has taken a job with the state of Tennessee.

I think of Darcie Lunsford, formerly the president-elect, who has taken her bright personality and considerable skills into the Florida real estate business.

I think of Ian Marquand – the heart and soul of our Montana chapter – who also has taken a job in state government.

These are all bright people who have taken a new path on which I am sure they will excel. I’m sure we all wish them well.

All three have committed to staying with SPJ and helping out wherever they can, and I’m sure they will.

But it does make me wonder: What’s to become of our profession and our organization if we keep losing such bright minds and strong leaders?

Well, here’s one thing I believe we can and should do. There are plenty of bright and talented people in our business, many of them just starting out in their careers.

And there are others whom I’ve admired for years who for one reason or another have never joined SPJ.

We need to start reaching out to those folks and bring them into SPJ. We need to replenish our ranks with people like Clint and Darcie and Ian who can and will make a difference.

Here’s what I’m going to do: I’ve been compiling a list of 100 people who fit this description. Over the next 100 days, I’ll be writing a series of letters asking them to join SPJ.

Here’s what I’m asking you to do. Think of three people in your own world who you think would make excellent SPJ members and perhaps even leaders.

Call them. Email them. Write them. Ask them to join. (Here are few good reasons to join.) If you think a phone call from the SPJ president will help, email me their names and numbers. I’ll be happy to make those calls.

Let’s find these folks and make SPJ as strong in the service of journalism this year as it has been since 1909.

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