Monday, October 4, 2010

Laurie Hertzel series, final installment: While journalism has come a long way since my Duluth years, the fundamentals have—and will—stick around.

This is the final installment in our monthlong series by Star Tribune books editor and News to Me author Laurie Hertzel. The series has moved chronologically through Hertzel's early years and adventures in writing to her adventures while on assignment at the Duluth News-Tribune to her post-Duluth years to the present state of journalism and its future. You can find links to previous entries in the series at the bottom of this post.

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Since my book has come out, I have heard from a lot of people. I talked with a guy who worked at the paper in the early 1960s; he remembers hot type and the composing room like a foundry, as they melted down the printing plates each day from the night before. I got an email from a guy who was a reporter a few years before I was; he remembers a city editor who kept a pistol in his desk.

And I have heard from students, and from young journalists, who are trying to understand what the current change is about, and what it all will mean for them—the internet, and blogs, and 24-hour news cycles, and so much competition. They wonder if they should go into some other career—if journalism is a dead-end.

My book looks back, but they are looking forward.

It seems to me that the fundamentals of gathering the news and then shaping it into some kind of interesting and balanced story won’t change, and haven’t changed, and I tell them that. I tell them that a democracy cannot survive without a free and vigorous press, and that I am certain that newspapers will survive in some form.

But mostly what I tell them is that journalism is a great profession to go into because it is fun. You get to meet people you never would meet otherwise, and go places where you would not otherwise be welcome. And sometimes, truth be told, you go places where you are most definitely not welcome.

You get to tell stories—stories that amuse and delight and aggravate and incense and spur people to action.

You get to make a difference, sometimes small, sometimes quite large.

I wish I were a soothsayer, but I’m not. I can’t tell people the answer to the big question: Will print newspapers survive? I think they will, but I’m sure somebody out there thought that 8-track tapes would survive, too. But I am absolutely serenely positive that journalism will survive, and that’s the important thing. One thing that working on this book has shown me is this: the newspaper business has been in flux pretty much from the beginning, and it has always weathered well the changes.

Radio didn’t kill it. TV didn’t kill it. So far the Internet hasn’t killed it. I have lots of hope.

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Thanks for following Laurie Hertzel's blog series. If you haven't already, check out other entries in the series:
-Part 5: When I Was ... 38 and embarking upon a new career adventure.
-Part 4: When I Was ... 30 and stumbled upon the biggest story of my life.
-Part 3: When I Was ... starting out as a reporter at the Duluth-News Tribune.
-Part 2: When I Was ... 19 (and a newsroom clerk at the Duluth News-Tribune).
-Part 1: When I Was ... quite young, an avid reader, and an aspiring librarian.

Laurie Hertzel is author of News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist, published by University of Minnesota Press.

Click here
for more information, including a list of upcoming Minnesota reading events and links to Hertzel's website and Facebook page. And if you haven't already, be sure to check out the News to Me book trailer:

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