I am still running of the proverbial high from our “Coffee with the Editor” events we held last week in Covington and Renton. What an amazing turnout we had, and how wonderful it is to see a community so involved with its local paper.
The last 10 years in the news industry has been tumultuous (a small understatement) and the last four years has seemed like an endless barrage of undeserved criticism caused by the influx of fake news outlets and manipulation from websites that share on social media. For most of my journalism career it seems like half of my job has been proving my own credentials and fighting back bad information, which spreads like an oil fire. Sometimes I feel like shaking online readers and yelling “Read more than the headline!”
That metaphorical oil fire had left me feeling burned out the last year. The pep in my step I had in journalism school slowed after the first two years to a slow walk and in the last year even slower to a dawdling plod.
I felt the fire in my core for work again after my first week as editor here, but talking with the community we serve was like adding high-octane gasoline to my tank.
The coffee event in Renton was like a small party in a sense. I met a lot of new people from city leaders to local residents and even some high school journalists looking to learn a little more about the work they do.
I was also warmly welcomed by some University of Idaho Vandals (I-D-A-H-O IDAHO IDAHO GO GO GO!).
I had so many fantastic conversations about a multitude of topics.
One couple, who are a pair of professional ballroom dancers, asked me about buildings they see empty around the city and if there is a chance the city will soon install more street lighting in downtown.
I met Pam Teal, one of your Renton School District Board of Directors members and we talked about some great funding opportunities in the works with the Renton School Foundation.
I met a retired civil engineer and American Legion member who is hoping to spread more positive news through volunteer work his fellow members do.
I sat with two student journalists from Renton High School who wanted to ask questions about what journalism school is like and how the job is outside school. This may have been my favorite conversation.
My next favorite conversation, and one of the most thought-provoking, was a conversation I had with Kim-Khanh Van. Van is running for a city council position, but we didn’t talk about campaigns. Instead she asked me a simple question with a not so easy answer. What were we doing to include more voices from women and people of color living in the Renton community.
Well what are we doing? Sadly, the answer is not much and we could be doing more. Since I’m still on the lookout for potential columnists and op-ed writers, I hope someone with a unique voice and who represents these communities will reach out to us here at the Renton Reporter.
I know as a good editor it’s important to cover all sides of a story. And city issues affect groups differently. Where we place our parks, where we build resources, where we fix roads and other legislation may affect one person over another depenind on age, race, gender, sexuality and income status. As good, modern reporters we need to make sure we are asking the real questions and looking for those voices we don’t always represent.
It’s conversations like these that make these events so important. It’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day work of editing stories, posting online, writing about crimes and dealing with comments on social media. But stepping out of the office to meet our readers (and I hope future readers) keeps the light going inside and the push to create better journalism.
I had such a great time at these events that I am going to work on doing more, maybe some in the evening for those who were not able to attend the early coffee meeting.
I hope to see you there reader.