Stirring the pot

I am, by nature, a trouble maker, someone who rocks the boat, stirs the pot, pokes a finger into the eye of convention and (insert cliche here). As a journalist, I subscribe to Finley Peter Dunne's belief that it is "the role of a newspaperman to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

Journalism is best served when it has an edge and stretches the limits. Mainstream media is controlled by a half-dozen mega corporation and lost the edge a long time ago. Locally-owned newspapers, radio or television stations fade into obscurity as the massive media chains take over. Here in Floyd, the local weekly is owned by Media General, the mega-empire based in Richmond that also owns Channel 10 in Roanoke and a half dozen other newspapers in Southwestern Virginia.

In Hillsville, Heartland Publications of Connecticut bought the Carroll News and fired most of the staff because they were too old, had been at the paper too long and cost too much money to pay. This came after the new owners visited the paper and said they planned "no changes" for the immediate future. Instead, they immediately started cutting staff. Forget the need for some local history and institutional knowledge. This is all about business and return to shareholders.  Maybe they should call it the company Heartless Publications. The Roanoke Times, owned by Landmark Communications in Norfolk, is offering early retirement buyouts for more than 20 long time employees. Those who don't take the package face layoffs with far less benefits.

I am, by nature, a trouble maker, someone who rocks the boat, stirs the pot, pokes a finger into the eye of convention and (insert cliche here). As a journalist, I subscribe to Finley Peter Dunne’s belief that it is "the role of a newspaperman to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

Journalism is best served when it has an edge and stretches the limits. Mainstream media is controlled by a half-dozen mega corporation and lost the edge a long time ago. Locally-owned newspapers, radio or television stations fade into obscurity as the massive media chains take over. Here in Floyd, the local weekly is owned by Media General, the mega-empire based in Richmond that also owns Channel 10 in Roanoke and a half dozen other newspapers in Southwestern Virginia.

In Hillsville, Heartland Publications of Connecticut bought the Carroll News and fired most of the staff because they were too old, had been at the paper too long and cost too much money to pay. This came after the new owners visited the paper and said they planned "no changes" for the immediate future. Instead, they immediately started cutting staff. Forget the need for some local history and institutional knowledge. This is all about business and return to shareholders.  Maybe they should call it the company Heartless Publications. The Roanoke Times, owned by Landmark Communications in Norfolk, is offering early retirement buyouts for more than 20 long time employees. Those who don’t take the package face layoffs with far less benefits.

In recent weeks I’ve become more involved in helping build strong, community-based journalism efforts on the web. Next week I head for Washingto participate in the Media Giraffe, Journalism That Matters. It’s a gathering of those who work in both traditional and online journalism and we will work on, among other things, the "Next Newsroom Blueprint" and examine how to improve the quality of local online journalism.

For the last dozen years, my online journalism efforts have been directed at national politics through Capitol Hill Blue. I’m scaling back my work at Blue so I can concentrate on developing strong community journalism sites that will serve not only Floyd County but also other rural areas that need frequently-updated, reliable sources of information on a daily basis.  My involvement in Media Giraffe is just part of the equation. I’m also working with the Knight Citizens News Network and the Center for Citizen Media.

With luck, we can save local news before it becomes a lost cog in the giant media machine. And, with luck, maybe we can raise a little hell, kick over a few trashcans, comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

I can’t help it. It’s in my genes.

Share:

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

4 Responses

  1. Yes, Mr. Thompson, you are a troublemaker. That is one of the things I like about you. When I started reading your blog I concluded through your writing style that you must be an arrogant, self-centered, unapproachable hot head. But then a friend pointed you out at Cafe del Sol one morning and I introduced myself to you and what followed was an hour of pleasant conversation with someone I found surprisingly charming, self-effacing and unpretentious. There exists an interesting enigma in you Mr. Thompson. Passion lurks behind those brown eyes but you are in so many ways a Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. You speak so softly that one has to struggle to listen yet your words shout from the keyboard in your writings. Your photography so often captures a serenity that belies the brutality of the words you write on that political web site of yours. I wonder if you are so successful in channeling your anger through your writings that what we see in person is the compassion that lies underneath. In person you appear so at peace with yourself that it is hard to imaging the fire and anger that we sometimes see on these pages. You just keep doing what you are doing Doug Thompson and we we will keep reading your words and enjoying your photography.

  2. I would be careful with comments about passion behind Doug’s brown eyes. I’ve met his wife Amy and she is a darling and delightful person but I also understand she is Irish-Lebanese and that is a combination of tempers that I would not want after me!

Comments are closed.

On Key
Related Posts
Keeping time around the world

Keeping time around the world

In a period of my adult, professional, life, I spent many days (and nights) on planes flying around the world. For many of those years,