Journalism a bad return on investment? Wait a sec

Posted Wednesday, Jun. 12, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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campbell There are few things as humbling as being invited into someone’s life and home every day through a newspaper.

I didn’t quite get this at first.

That night back in the early 1980s, when I was rushing to finish a high school football story on a Friday night and a mom called to plead that I be kind to her son’s team, which had lost, I groused to myself that she didn’t understand what my job was.

Maybe she knew much better than I did at the time.

She had expectations, as all newspaper readers do.

They expect facts but also fairness, truth but also something deeper and broader than that. They want us to write not just what we witnessed but what we should have seen, not just what we know but what we should have known.

They trust their newspaper to provide perspective on the world, provide information they need, validate their experiences and help them make sense of things.

These are reasonable expectations, even as they present a perpetual challenge.

Many people also have somewhat unrealistic notions about the power of the press. Prisoners believe we can prove their innocence. Litigants in convoluted legal tussles believe we can extricate them. TV watchers believe we can resolve their complaints.

Some critics believe that members of the news media not only have time to put together a plethora of information for them every day but also to engage in vast world-domination conspiracies. And there are those who are convinced we’re merely tools, puppets, devils and/or, my heavens, unrepentant commies.

Funny how they keep reading anyway.

There are readers who can’t believe anyone would be daft enough to pay me to write my opinions.

I can’t believe it either.

During 13 years of writing editorials on behalf of the Editorial Board plus a weekly bylined column, I’ve learned what a privilege and a responsibility it is. People I might never meet have invited me into their homes, giving me precious time from their day, and they simply asked for something intelligent, thoughtful, informative and honest to read.

It’s never ceased to make my day when someone has taken the trouble of leaving a message or sending a note to let me know I’ve succeeded.

I’ll miss that part of daily journalism. Then there’s been the opportunity to work with talented people dedicated to providing a public service, day in, day out, because people rely on it.

After 33 years in newspapering in four cities, the longest stint by far being in Fort Worth, I’m going to try a different and exciting adventure. On Monday, my new title will be Director of Communications for Tulane Law School in New Orleans.

A study just ranked “news analyst, reporter, correspondent” near the bottom among 20 professions based on how quickly you can pay off undergraduate college loans. Going into advertising or being an economist are better returns on educational investment, the chart suggests.

In my experience, journalism offers tangibles and intangibles that don’t translate into money in the bank. It introduces you to people you might not otherwise have met: politicians and parents of murder victims; judges and kids helping their communities; Death Row inmates and aging war veterans.

It takes you places you might never have gone: the Supreme Court and a midnight high-water rescue in a park; school classrooms all over the country and the hospital after a major plane crash; a sexual harassment trial and a professional golf tournament.

But life itself should do that, too, if you’re willing to venture out, take the chance and keep learning.

Thanks to all the readers who’ve made it possible for me to do a job I’ve loved. The next chapter awaits.

Linda P. Campbell is a Star-Telegram editorial writer. 817-390-7867 Twitter: @LindaPCampbell

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