This is the speech I gave to the Edmonton Journal newsroom on May 11, 2011, my last day of work after almost 14 years there. It’s a little rough around the edges, but I hope it gives a sense of what the place meant to me.
The four people I thanked were Sheila Pratt, Brian Gavriloff, Mark Suits and Ryan Jackson. Ryan was kind enough to capture this audio for me. When I said “a flip switched,” what I meant was “a switch flipped.” And at the end, when I said, “I’m going to take this off now,” I was referring to my Journal ring.
This was my best try at a pep talk. There’s way too much doom and gloom about journalism these days; it’s a counterproductive distraction. Newsrooms that embrace change will find a way to do what journalists are called to do, regardless of the obstacles.
For a truly inspiring pep talk, I urge you to read Robert Krulwich’s commencement speech to the Berkeley Journalism School’s class of 2011. I’m not sure I can articulate how perfectly wonderful this speech is. It starts with a swashbuckling “good old days” war story, the kind reporters love to tell. Just when you think it’s going to be one of the usual laments, Krulwich hits you with stark, brilliant, liberating realism: “…things change. They always change. And companies won’t protect you from that change. They can’t. And these days, they don’t even try.”
But then he gets to the hope, by remembering the calling, the urge, the hunger, that drove him into the business: "Something inside you says I can’t wait to be asked I just have to jump in and do it.“ He sees that same impulse in a particular community of science bloggers; I think his observations apply just as well to Edmonton’s blogging community.
His advice to the students? "Think about NOT waiting your turn,” he says.
“Instead, think about getting together with friends that you admire, or envy. Think about entrepreneuring. Think about NOT waiting for a company to call you up. Think about not giving your heart to a bunch of adults you don’t know. Think about horizontal loyalty. Think about turning to people you already know, who are your friends, or friends of their friends and making something that makes sense to you together, that is as beautiful or as true as you can make it.”
I love that concept of “horizontal loyalty.” I see it in the League of Extraordinary Media. I see it in the philosophy behind YEGLive.ca. I see it in the “let’s help everybody” spirit behind the Edmonton Champions Project. I feel it every day on Twitter. Mainstream journalism would do well to catch that spirit; if it doesn’t, the kind of work it used to do will be done by people who ache to do it anyway. I plan to be among them.
For more Krulwich (because it is impossible to get too much), listen to Radiolab, the exquisite podcast he does with Jad Abumrad.