Editor column: Talk about a tough racket | PostIndependent.com

Editor column: Talk about a tough racket

There are people who love to talk about their work, and there are people who seldom mention their profession. Actually love is not required, some people hate their job and it’s all they talk about. But you get where I’m going.

Your’s truly falls into the talking category, much to Sam’s chagrin. Perhaps it is a bit extreme when one has to pause in response to the question: Do you do anything beside work and talk about work?

What can I say, I love my job and I love talking about it, the day to day and the broader, often romanticized journalistic profession. This is why I jumped at the chance when Gavin Dahl, the news director at KDNK Community Radio in Carbondale, reached out to a staff member in Glenwood about a journalism roundtable discussion this past weekend.

My colleague was heading out of town and asked the rest of us if we were interested, and being the type of people who rarely say “no” when it comes to work, everyone responded with some version of “I have to check my schedule, but I can probably do it.”

I too said I’d participate in order to represent the “journalists-who-wear-cowboy-boots demographic.” When my boss responded by asking if I really wanted to drive to Carbondale on a Sunday evening to do a one-hour radio roundtable, I had to come clean.

“But I actually enjoy talking about this profession so that’s probably as much excitement as I’ll get on a Sunday night,” I wrote back.

“Cowboy Hoffman gets the spot,” he responded.

Turns out Sam was not happy with my enthusiasm, and I even had some regrets leading up to the interview. After cranking out a couple of stories that morning, part of me wanted to park on the couch to watch football (which I’m strangely excited about) and drink beer the remainder of my Sunday.

With hindsight, I’m glad I made the trip to Carbondale. The others sitting around the table included Brent Gardner-Smith from Aspen Journalism, Lynn Burton from The Sopris Sun and Amy Hadden Marsh with KDNK. The conversation lasted a few seconds less than the full hour and I could have sat there for at least another hour.

Aside from being a purely engaging conversation, there were some important points — most of which are not unique to the area — raised by all.

One of the key points was the issue of newsrooms’ failure (my word) to reflect the communities we cover. Specifically mentioned was the lack of Hispanic journalists in local newsrooms. According to 2015 numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, in Garfield County the population is 17.6 percent Hispanic or Latino — a number that is likely smaller than reality.

Still, those of us sitting around the table struggled to come up with a bilingual journalist in our local mainstream newsrooms.

Again, the problem is not unique to our area. A 2015 census of newspaper journalists by the American Society of News Editors and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Florida International University concluded as much.

Of the 32,900 full-time journalists at approximately 1,400 daily newspapers in the U.S., only 12.76 percent were racial minorities. This doesn’t even touch on the lack of women in newsrooms and executive leadership positions.

Another point discussed at length during the radio conversation was the limited resources in our newsrooms. We are all trying to do more with less, and everyday we have to make conscious decisions on what deserves our attention, and consequently your attention.

Again, not an issue unique to our area. The same census of newspaper journalists found a decrease of 3,800 full-time journalists from 2013 to 2015. Larger papers continue to contract (the Denver Post went through another round of buyouts earlier this summer) and smaller papers do the best with fewer resources than they had years ago — that is if they’re fortunate to keep their doors open.

While there was no shortage of flaws or insider venting during the discussion, I think Brent Gardner-Smith raised one of the most important points, and that is the number of local newsrooms still present in the area.

Coming from Cincinnati where there are at least four different outlets all competing for the same eyeballs, it still feels strange to speak highly of people I’ve been trained to think of as competition. But we are lucky to have the number of dedicated and professional journalists from Parachute to Aspen covering various aspects of life in our region.

Are their gaps? Yes. Do we get every story? No, far from it. But one need look no farther than Facebook comment threads on various community pages to see what the conversation would be like without the reporting done by our local journalists everyday.

If you have a spare hour, visit http://bit.ly/2crJ5Tk and listen to the KDNK roundtable discussion. And, of course, continue that discussion by calling or emailing me via the information below.

Ryan Hoffman is the editor of The Citizen Telegram. You can reach him at 970-685-2103 or at rhoffman@citizentelegram.com.

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