A foreign correspondent's view on newspaper struggles

Here’s a brand.

Trudy Rubin is what’s left of the once glorious international presence of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

She just returned from another tour of Iraq, where she has further cemented her reputation as a top global-reporting force. Her Worldview column and her blog are musts for those following American presences in the Middle East (Subscribe here). Yeah, and she’s doing for the Inquirer, fo real.

On Tuesday, she fielded questions in an online forum and, along with politics and military, I was joined by others asking her thoughts on newspapers.

Find them below.

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Twelve months of top journalism blog posts in 2008

bestjournalismposts

Tomorrow 2009 begins. Instead of doing a top ten list of posts like most, I want to review the year in important journalism-related blog posts.

There are  a lot of bloggers who focus on journalism. From grizzled veterans, tech geeks and corporate stiffs who are looking for the future, to those who blog the news, and younger cats like me, who have some of the experience, all the enthusiasm and a fresh perspective to offer. Yes, while some have written newspaper obituaries, some are looking toward the future.

So, with all of us running around blabbing on about new media and the future of newspapers, it turns out that every once in a while something I think is pretty meaningful comes to light. This year has been a big one, so below, in my humble opinion, see a guide to 12 months of the best journalism-related blog posts of 2008.

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Look at the comments, stupid

Man, who doesn’t have a blog.

Any newspaper that can even be tossed in the conversation has someone adding to it. There is no end to the number of jerks like me doing much of the same, with less experience and knowledge but increasingly more interest than the more professional.

The question, of course, is if any of it is working. One of the simpler answers, I’d say, is, well, look at the comments. If they’re improving, you’re improving.

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Journalists are victors of the moment

Perhaps more than any other profession, journalists live in moments, that hour’s story, that day’s deadline.

Zack Stalberg was made a legend for his Frank Rizzo moment. As a 2001 Philadelphia Weekly profile suggested:

Within two years the night rewrite kid is a City Hall reporter covering Frank Rizzo at a time when Rizzo was, as Stalberg recalls, “unstoppable … He was going to be governor and his image was untarnished and then–boom!” Boom, of course, was Stalberg himself, who persuaded the mayor to take a lie detector test to resolve a political dispute. Rizzo, as the whole city knows, failed the test in grand fashion, and Stalberg, as the whole city also knows, became someone who would make a name for himself. [Source]

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Journalism Tool box: What every young journalist needs

As a young, aspiring journalist, I want to know what it is I need to have, what I need to know and what I need to learn. I’ve spoken to some friends, colleagues and with a few professional internships in my past, I think I am ready to fill the vaccum. What needs to be in every young journalist’s tool box?

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Are things changing at the New Jersey Herald?

The newspaper of record for northwest New Jersey is the Herald. As such, it was the first newspaper I knew, the first read and the first I learned to criticize. But things may be changing.

The New Jersey Herald, now active six days a week, has published continuously since 1829. It is like many small, rural newspapers. With small communities, investigation is sometimes rare. Might Publisher Bruce Tomlinson and Editor Chris Frear avoid criticizing potential advertising streams when their coverage area is less than 150,000 people and their circulation is less than 15,000? Of course, but they’ve made a series of changes in recent years – like dropping their old God awful masthead seen above – and I’ve seen more of late.

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Booze, grudges and paranoia: what makes a journalist a journalist

Jobs are meant to include “occupational mythology,” expectations that are perhaps more commonly taken on than commonly found in a given position. Many with those positions relish in embodying these traits: rock stars use drugs, athletes use women, lawyers love the gray and green in their lifestyles. It’s why politicians kiss babies and go door-to-door.

These are ways we characterize someone, which makes it a hell of a short cut to being regarded as a rock star, an athlete, a lawyer or a baby-kissing politician.

Men and women become journalists, I have experienced, because they think their task is important, they are bearing light on what needs light most: from Washington D.C. to school board meetings. Journalists are self-righteous, unfailing in their belief what they are doing is good and just and unappreciated.

Of course, by journalists, I am speaking quite generally and referring almost exclusively to the breed of journalist that came from the urban print daily mold. I made the distinction in an earlier post.

They are independent, competitive and insular because sources won’t help, other media don’t stop, and no one understands.

Back in January, Slate magazine had a great article on this phenomenon, particularly in the newspaper field:

The journalist likes to think of himself as living close to the edge, whether he’s covering real estate or Iraq. He (and she) shouts and curses and cracks wise at most every opportunity, considers divorce an occupational hazard, and loves telling ripping yarns about his greatest stories. If he likes sex, he has too much of it. Ditto for food. If he drinks, he considers booze his muse. If he smokes, he smokes to excess, and if he attempts to quit, he uses Nicorette and the patch.

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