I often think about the purpose of what we do at ABOUT. What do the stories and columns pertaining to this one quiet little corner of a vast and rapidly changing world contribute to the lives of folks who read them? I wrestle with the answers, rarely satisfied, wondering if we could be more without a clear understanding of what “more” would be. More of what?
I know the questions stem from my freelance reporting for other publications (in case you didn’t know, everyone on the ABOUT staff also freelances, but that’s a topic for another editorial). A lot of my other freelance writing focuses on more controversial subjects. The conflict, that friction between what we think is truth and the cold hard facts that say otherwise, is what many people think of when they think of journalism. They think of gritty reporters uncovering what was supposed to stay hidden. When the Founders of this nation drew up the First Amendment to the Constitution, this is what they were thinking as well. As the Fourth Estate — a crucial pillar of democracy — journalism is a tool of accountability. It’s a journalist’s obligation to hold those in power accountable to the public.
This heroic aspect of journalism is incredibly attractive to someone like me, who happens to be a bit of an iconoclast anyway.
But deconstructing journalism reveals a simpler definition. The ultimate goal of the journalist is to tell a story that pulls the reader into it and leads to a degree of enlightenment. If you leave an article knowing more, the journalist has done his or her job. If you want to know more truths about the River Valley, about the people, about the character of this place, ABOUT is your best media option. Even our seemingly simplest column is incredibly informative.
If you flip through to the back pages of this issue, you’ll find the “10 Things ABOUT” Chris Zimmerman. Go ahead and do that now. I’ll wait.
I’ve worked with Chris for going on seven years, and while I knew what some of his answers would be, I was surprised by a few as well. Isn’t it interesting how just a couple handfuls of pretty mundane questions can be so revealing? That was our goal with “10 Things ABOUT,” an opportunity to learn a thing or two or ten about your neighbors.
If you want to understand the essence of journalism, the “10 Things ABOUT” column is among the purest of forms — simple yet probing questions designed to draw out illuminating answers that leave the reader better informed.