Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Charlotte Hall Leaves ASNE Post 'Both Hopeful and Angry'

Charlotte Hall finished her tenure as ASNE president with a note to members describing her frustrations with pundits taking potshots at the industry.

I end my ASNE year both hopeful and angry. Many, in and out of our industry, are working hard to envision new models to support journalism. I cheer them on. But I am angry at the pundits who would dance on newspapers’ graves. Their anti-newspaper vitriol disrespects the work being done by journalists in newsrooms all over America.

These pundits take delight in telling us we are failures. Yet truth be told, the vast majority of local public interest journalism--the watchdog stories, the investigations, the coverage of city hall and the school board, the stories with impact on public policy--is still being done in newspaper newsrooms. And that is why thoughtful people are frightened about the perilous state of newspapers. They know that the loss of every journalist is a loss for democracy. And that is why we must fight on.

Hope has been hard to come by lately, no doubt about it. We have had to say farewell to storied newspapers and talented journalists. And yet I see hope popping up like the brave flowers of spring that rise from frigid ground. I see it in our huge and growing audience--our Web audience is up more than 10 percent in a year, Nielsen reported last week. I see it in the digital skills of our staffs. I see it in the transformation of our newsrooms to digital information centers that also produce a print newspaper. I see it in our ability to engage people through social media. I see it in creation of online communities hosted by our newsrooms. I see it in the redesign of our print papers. I see it in the undiminished commitment to public service journalism.

At this point, I feel like giving the Winston Churchill finale about fighting on the beaches and never giving up. But you are already doing that. You are battling on every front, not for yourself and not for your company, but for the journalists you lead and the communities you serve.

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