Posts Tagged ‘Garrison Keillor’

#SPJ4All in action

One night in April 1986, Garrison Keillor stood on the stage of the World Theater (now the Fitzgerald Theater) in St. Paul, Minnesota, as part of celebrations for its grand reopening after years of renovation. His program, A Prairie Home Companion, was simulcast that evening on public radio and public television stations nationwide.

As the show’s association with the theater, and the timeline of events which led to the renovations were discussed, touching on a moment when things looked bleak, Keillor offered this remark: “Nobody likes to ask for help, but you find out about other people when you do.”

I know this feeling too well. This week marks the fourth month since I relocated to Minneapolis after 18 years in Chicago. I had a little family there and a couple of colleagues that I had worked with on SPJ matters, and I had been to Minneapolis twice in the five years since, but it was still relatively new territory to me. Despite being fueled by caffeine and adrenaline, I felt uneasy. Even to this day, I wonder what’s out there for me in this Midwestern metropolis.

Not a lot of people knew that I would be making the over 400 mile trek northwest, but in the couple of weeks since I made did, two people in this metropolis did something they didn’t have to do – they extended a hand to this early career journalist from Chicago.

It made an impact as I adjusted, and I consider their kindness not only to be a personal and professional joy, but a reminder that the ability to create something authentic and meaningful is being done every day. The desire and ability is out there, and it is something that I can contribute to.

This week, SPJ will run its 3rd #SPJ4All campaign. Robyn Davis Sekula, SPJ’s Membership Committee chair, came up with the idea in response to controversial legislation in Indiana that would have been branded as discriminatory to gay and lesbian couples. For the record, SPJ itself is based in Indianapolis.

While #SPJ4All is designed to be a campaign to encourage the need for a diverse membership within SPJ, I think it goes one step further. It encourages the need for those who produce journalism either behind the scenes, on air or behind a byline, and those who support it, to be united as one.

This is not a time for us to compete against one another. This is a time to collaborate, to work together, and to champion each other – so we together can seek truth and report it. When we support each other and encourage each other to be at our best, journalism and media can be at its best for the people who depend on it most – our audience.

These are difficult times for journalism, and uncertainty is the norm, especially for early career journalists. But amid uncertainty come reminders that the ability to inform, educate and engage is available in vivacious abundance – that if you feel uneasy, you can be inspired, and when you are inspired, you can make a difference.

Every day, here in the Twin Cities, people respond to the calling of journalism. They believe in its mission and the impact it can have – whether its journalists like Jenna Ross, Briana Bierschbach and Laura Yuen, or bloggers and writers like Jade and Andrea Swensson.

Yet, it doesn’t apply solely to the people of the Twin Cities – it applies to people across the country and around the world – from Dhruti Shah at the BBC and Taylor Mirfendereski at KING-TV in Seattle (who also co-chairs the Digital Community, which oversees this blog), to Beth Francesco at the University of Texas at Arlington, as well as my colleagues on the Ethics and Freedom of Information committees – and all who strive to seek the truth and report it.

The work we do collectively as one entity demonstrates why journalism continues to be important, day in and day out, and in difficult times, communities like these are essential things to have – not just for one’s own sake, but for journalism’s too.

Early career journalists may feel uneasy at first in asking for help, but take it from me – when you do ask, you find a community that is supportive and wants you to be at your best. You find people who listen to you, who value you and your contributions, and give you a sense of belonging.

It exists in a community that has your back. That community is found not just in one’s own newsroom or professional network, but within SPJ as a whole. Of all the reasons there are to be an SPJ member, the community aspect is the one I identify with the most, and really what #SPJ4All is all about.

These communities can only exist however when we work together. After all, we are stronger together when we collaborate and promote the exchange of ideas together. We are stronger together because we make journalism better together. We are stronger together making SPJ better together – because if we don’t do it, who will?

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist in Minneapolis and a member of SPJ’s Ethics and FOI Committees. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed are that of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The Twin Cities’ spirit

Garrison Keillor’s quote, “Be well, do good work and keep in touch,” provides a lesson for journalists. (Photo: Trishhhh/Flickr)

It’s a somewhat overcast afternoon as I look out of the window in the small office of my apartment in Minneapolis, where I’m ending my first full week as a Minnesotan. In the distance is the city skyline, a view that echoes the apartment in Seattle where the fictitious psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane lived.

A week or so ago, I made the over 400 mile move from Chicago to the Twin Cities for greener pastures. I was operating on caffeine and adrenaline, and I still am a week later.

Yet, as I write this, I recall the quote from the famous broadcaster and writer Garrison Keillor, which he uses for his Writer’s Almanac broadcasts on Minnesota Public Radio: “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”

I had been to Minneapolis twice before in the past few years, and then I didn’t really appreciate the impact of Keillor’s philosophy. In the almost two weeks since I became a Minnesotan, I’ve come to value it and more.

We live in an age where the web has expanded everything that we do, where journalism and storytelling is being enhanced in the realms of Twitter, Facebook and the web. While there have been positive benefits, there also remain questions, especially for those looking to have a successful career in journalism and media.

While we ask ourselves about our role, and how we can truly make a difference, we can take inspiration from those around us. That inspiration can come from reporters trying to make sense of events for the web, print or broadcast, in order to allow us to learn from crafts and the role stories can have.

Inspiration can also come outside of conventional journalism, including from the effervescent spirit of DJs and personalities at MPR’s The Current, who are always eager to share with you something you’ve never heard before.

In St. Paul, on the top floor of MPR’s headquarters, there is a view outside to the east overlooking the state Capitol building – a majestic, poignant reminder of the role journalists have to hold power to account, to promote the exchange of ideas and civil discourse, and to, as SPJ’s Code of Ethics puts it – seek truth and report it. It also is a photographic recollection of the reminder from Fred Rogers that life is for service.

While there are questions that remain to be answered, I simultaneously know that there are people in the Twin Cities, be it at MPR, my colleagues at SPJ’s Minnesota chapter, and elsewhere, whose work and ideas are paramount to helping us understand ourselves. Indeed, the value of the work they do in helping their friends, family, neighbors and the place they call home be at their best is something they don’t take for granted.

They instill in us the desire to learn, day in and day out. I hope, along the way, that I can learn from them.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.


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