Steve Buttry to newsroom curmudgeons: Cut it out

Do you find yourself cursing the sad state of journalism today, wondering why people waste time with Twitter, or proclaiming End Times when journalism schools cut courses on spelling and grammar?

Probably not, if you’re reading posts here (at least not the social media part). But if you haven’t seen it yet — and whether or not you consider yourself one — check out Steve Buttry’s letter to newsroom curmudgeons that convincingly rebuts all the usual arguments from experienced journalists who don’t have time for all this digital silliness and social media mumbo-jumbo.

His seven points, in summary:

Reason #1: Quality. You may be resisting digital journalism because you think journalism was so great back in the day and today’s journalism just doesn’t measure up.

His reply: Journalism has a checkered past. No one was perfect before the internet, and no one’s perfect now.

Reason #2: You love writing. Maybe what you enjoy most is finding the right words, crafting the perfect lead, telling the story. Maybe you think tweets and blogs and other digital formats aren’t as pure forms of writing as newspaper stories.

Do you think that being able to express a story with 250 words proves you’re a masterful writer? Try doing it in 140 characters.

Reason #3: Confidence. Maybe you’ve been confident in what you do for years, or even decades, and you’re reluctant to make rookie mistakes as you learn something new.

The great thing about digital journalism and social media is that everyone is scrambling to keep up, not just you. Besides, it’s more embarrassing to try and to make mistakes than not try at all.

Reason #4: You don’t have the time. You’re busy and you may think you can’t squeeze digital tools into your busy routine.

Once you get the hang of various social media platforms and digital tools, they can save you time. You won’t know until you try them out.

Reason #5: You don’t like Twitter (or some other digital task). Maybe you’ve tried your hand at Twitter, blogging, video or some other tasks of digital journalism and you just don’t like them.

At what point did you think that journalism was easy? Prove yourself, tough it out, and keep in mind the other less-rewarding professions you’ve deftly avoided falling into.

Reason #6: Ethics. You may think the 24/7 world of breaking news and social media doesn’t uphold the ethical standards you believe in.

People aren’t less (or more) ethical than they were in the past. And with so many different channels of communication open to journalists today, there are more ethical discussions happening now more than ever before. Was there anyone dedicated to monitoring the process of correcting journalistic errors 20 years ago?

Reason #7: Too old. Maybe you think you’re too old a dog to learn new tricks.

Ask for help. It’s there. Not just from young’uns in the newsroom but also from your experienced colleagues who are learning along with you.

Read Buttry’s post for the full rundown, as well as a good list of links related to this topic. Then read the debate in the comments, as well as his followup post, where he reveals what he learned from the reaction to his letter, such as using the word “curmudgeon” carefully.

Posted on April 18, 2012 at 7:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , , ,

2 Responses

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  1. Written by Steve Buttry
    on April 18, 2012 at 7:53 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Thanks for the kind words and for the thoughtful analysis of my point. I think you made my points more succinctly than I did.

    • Written by editor
      on April 18, 2012 at 12:45 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      Thanks for writing a great post, Steve!

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