Roy Robinson woke me from my arrogance last week.
I saw Roy at church. The Downtown Optimists will bring a Russian delegation of medical clinic managers to Columbia later this spring, and Roy wanted me to know about it. I was quick to dismiss – after all, I figured, Columbia probably hosts international visitors every week. I was wrong.
Skepticism is a necessary part of journalism. (Old saw: If your mother says she loves you, check it out.) Too often, though, skepticism turns to cynicism. Reporters use the same sources and tune out others. Editors grow tired of working the same kind of story over and over.
They think they’ve heard it all before.
Journalists need to be better listeners, to recognize that journalism derives its power and relevance through the extraordinary events of ordinary life. My mentor used to wander through the newsroom hollering: “Make it sing!” Which meant: Write well; report tenaciously; find the song the community sings day in and day out.
Roy Robinson helped me remember.
That’s why I hope our April 4 edition goes deep on many levels. The New Sunday Missourian will have a page on big changes in the European Union. And a feature called Baby of the Week. There will be a page describing the five most pressing issues. And a report on potholes.
Because of Roy, we’ll start a feature in which people can call or write me with their news. We’ll publish what you have to say, and perhaps follow up with fuller stories.
Page 5A today describes more features in the works. In two weeks, you will see the effort so far. Staffers at the Missourian and researchers at the Missouri School of Journalism will listen to complaints and compliments, and then offer another draft in May.
Thanks Roy, and thanks to all of you who have offered up your ideas. It’s going to be neat to see them come to life.
Call Tom Warhover directly at 882-5734; e-mail email@example.com; or write to New Sunday, PO Box 917, Columbia, Mo., 65205