Editorial

Sowing the Seeds

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In graduate school, my friend, Shara, bequeathed to me her graduation gown. It had also been given to her from a graduating student the previous year and before that another student. Now the gown was in my hands, and when I graduated the following year, I passed it down to another student, therefore continuing the tradition.

I thought about that gown as we were putting together the finishing touches of this issue, which includes our inaugural class of 15 Over 50. A graduation gown symbolizes many things to people: success, accomplishments, wisdom…so when I gave that gown away, I was also passing along this message: “You can do it too.”

The men and women recognized in our 15 Over 50 feature this month also share the same message. Despite the many ups and downs they’ve encountered throughout their long careers, these men and women are still working vigorously to make sure there is a future for journalism. Today’s news industry may not look like what it did when they first started in the field, but they still believe in the mission and power of delivering the truth and facts. They come from different backgrounds and serve in different markets and communities, but they have all endured the same challenges and faced the same evolution we’ve seen take place over the years.

Like my graduation gown, these news industry veterans are passing along their own wisdom and sowing the seeds so that the next generation of newsroom leaders know they can do it too. And when those young professionals (perhaps some of them have even appeared in our annual 25 Under 35 list) become mentors, the cycle of passing the baton starts over again. During these uncertain times, we can know for certain that legacies will live on.

Our other feature story focuses on the recent “News Deserts and Ghost Newspapers: Will Local News Survive?” report. Since 2016, Penelope Muse Abernathy has documented and analyzed the many news deserts (communities no longer covered by daily newspapers) that have appeared around the country. To some news publishers, it may seem like a dismal report, but as Abernathy described it in the story, one of the main reasons why she releases this report every year is to raise awareness because if we want to fix the problems found in local news, we must first be aware of them.

That brings me to media analyst Ken Doctor who is returning to the world of journalism to build a new model for local news through his new startup called Lookout Local. When he first announced his plans last fall not many details were known, but last month, he revealed Lookout Santa Cruz, which will be covering his own backyard in Santa Cruz County, California. If the model works there, he plans to expand Lookout to other cities.

Speaking with Marc Tracy of the New York Times, Doctor said he considered the area of Santa Cruz a news desert because it did not have enough journalists covering it.

“I came to the epiphany of putting both sides of my brain together,” Doctor told Tracy. “I’m an analyst. I understand the business. At the same time, I realized I lived in a worsening and worsening news desert.”

Lookout Santa Cruz is expected to launch later this fall. At press time, Doctor was in the middle of hiring his staff which will include an executive editor, executive director of product and design, community partners manager and correspondents. In the meantime, check out our E&P Reports podcast with Doctor and Lookout Local chief revenue officer Jed Williams.

It will be interesting to see Doctor, who is 70, pivot back into the newsroom, but perhaps he is doing it to show others in the business, “You can do it too.” 

Nu Yang is editor-in-chief of Editor and Publisher. She has been with the publication since 2011.

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