OPINION – A little more than a year ago, this incredible adventure we call life led my wife Cara and me down a path that ended about 1,500 miles south of St. George to the tip of Baja California Sur.
They call it Land’s End because if you sailed in a straight line south from Los Cabos, the next land mass you would encounter would be Antarctica, which is a long way off.
There were a lot people who figured I did it because it was time to retire and head out to pasture with a treasure trove of memories and a bottle of tequila.
Boy, were they wrong, at least about heading out to pasture.
The truth is, I had put in 16 hard, honest years at The Spectrum & Daily News and simply had enough of the 9-to-5, or, to be more accurate, the 9-to-whatever time the last problem of the day was ironed out.
I was, and still am, too young to “officially” retire. Besides, I had these words swirling in my head that needed to be wrangled into a book that is just about finished. I realized I had spent so many years writing so many things for other people that I never took enough time to sit down and do the kind of writing I had always thought I was meant to do. There was also this nagging feeling that the traditional ways and means of journalism were changing and I didn’t want to be left behind.
So, I quit.
I’ve done some good stuff on my own project over the course of the past year. I’ve done some good stuff for a couple of different outlets I contribute to that are pretty far removed from St. George, Utah.
But, there was one thing I missed: the weekly column I used to write.
I explored other avenues for that column and am really happy to have landed here.
Make that I am “relieved” to have landed here.
You see, over the last year, I have been doing some things in the “new media,” as the journalism wonks call it, and I like it.
It’s all nontraditional. I mean, I grew up in newsrooms where we truly were ink-stained wretches of the Fourth Estate, long before computers were brought into the equation. Although I am still pre-retirement age, I more than adequately fit into the “old-timer” description and should be a holdout to the conventional ink on paper delivery of news.
But, I’m not.
That 1,500-mile distance, you see, opened my eyes to just how very valuable the Internet has become as a platform for communications and the delivery of the daily news report. Actually, it’s more like the minute-by-minute delivery of the news report because you, dear reader, (and I use that term sincerely because I am always grateful for the people who read my words wherever they appear) want information and you want it now, not 12 hours after the fact. You want to react to it. You want to ask questions. Thanks to today’s technology, you can do that, and I hope you do because I always believed that my job as a columnist was to start the conversation and invite you into it.
There’s also another reason why I am glad that fate led me to this little corner of the world.
I ran across a piece the other day in the Huffington Post about some statements made by veteran newsman Dan Rather, who told pundit Bill Maher that “everyone should be concerned about the constant consolidation of media,” adding that “no more than six” companies currently control 80 percent of the distribution of news.
The article went on to state: “These large corporations, they have things they need from the power structure in Washington, whether it’s Republican or Democrat, and of course the people in Washington have things they want the news to report,” he said. “To put it bluntly, very big business is in bed with very big government in Washington, and has more to do with what the average person sees, hears, and reads than most people know.”
And, that frightens me because I grew up believing that we in the media are handed a sacred trust, a duty to seek and report truth, no matter how harsh or disturbing it may be, without fear or favor.
There’s not a lot of news, obviously, to be reported in a column. However, there are thoughts to be shared, ideas to be expressed, ideals to be upheld. I don’t think for a minute that most columnists are arrogant enough to believe they can change somebody’s thoughts completely on a subject. But, perhaps, we can enlighten, inform, and expose people to a different thought process, or, at the very least, entertain.
I was often referred to as “the guy St. George loves to hate.”
I don’t think anybody really hated me.
Well, maybe a few.
OK, depending on the column, maybe a lot.
But, that’s OK, too, as long as I made you think.
I’ve been working a lot in this new media thing and heard a lot of people try to shrug it off because they think it is smaller or lesser than the traditional manner of communication.
I disagree, because I’ve studied this business a long time and have never seen such a dramatic paradigm shift in my lifetime.
Besides, as Rather summed up so brilliantly when describing his efforts for the fledgling HDNet broadcast company he works for now, it doesn’t matter how large or powerful the company is, because “I judge success or failure by my own standards, not by somebody else’s.”
By the way, nice to visit with you again.
See you next week.
Copyright 2012 St. George News.