Sunday, May 20, 2007

Maybe I don't have to be too old to help out

I started writing this post Friday night in Bush Intercontinental Airport while I waited for my connecting flight to Shreveport from Nashville, Tenn. This tiny lap top with wireless and cell phone connection capabilities is pretty cool and coming in handy. By the way, it belongs to The Times and not me personally.

And this equipment is part of the reason I got sent to Nashville. I was there to speak on a panel with an editor from the Des Moines Register about online journalism efforts at an orientation program for summer interns participating in the Chips Quinn Scholars newspaper program. (I was a Chips Quinn scholar at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch during spring 2006.)

When program organizers asked me to participate, I have to say I was surprised. I've only been working as a professional journalist for a little more than a year. It seems like just yesterday I was listening to big time reporters talk to me to prepare me for an internship. Most of the speakers I heard had five or 10 years of experience.

In other words, I'm young, and I felt that way. I wasn't nervous about speaking in front of a crowd and having a lot of smart people come up with some pretty serious questions. I just wondered how much I would really have to offer.

But as these (mostly) recent or soon-to-be college grads asked me how I balance taking photos and shooting videos with writing articles for print or online, I did have responses. It made me realize my job is sort of like the situation the newspaper industry is in right now: We're all learning as we go.

Fewer people are reading the printed daily product many of our parents and grandparents love (or once loved) at breakfast time. But more seem to be reading and/or viewing it online. Now we're trying to give these Web readers what we hope they want, which is more than just shoveling print versions of stories onto sites.

Thinking about that as I described what I do was kind of exciting. Not to mention I hope it sort of eased some worries for these bright, summer interns. It's easy for anyone to be a little nervous as they embark on a new adventure. But they are asking the right questions, which is one thing that should always stay the same for any kind of journalist. I think they'll do fine, and if the rest of us keep doing what we should, so should our industry.

No comments: