Once in a while, stuff happens in professional life that serves as an encouragement. Sometimes the event is huge – like my golden apple for “Teacher of the Year” when I worked in exceptional education, or my first contract with Upper Room Books – and sometimes its just the right pat on the back at just the right time.
Thursday evening, attending the North Carolina Press Association’s annual awards ceremony, turned out to be one of those “pat on the back” moments. Just a little professional recognition can go a long way.
It was a cool event, designed to honor cutting edge writing by members of the press from the smallest local weekly in an obscure corner of North Carolina to powerhouse dailies such as Raleigh’s own News & Observer.
For the past two years, I’ve been writing for Wake Forest Today, a start-up “paper” designed from the ground up to be on-line only, and never in print. Most traditional newspapers now make their content accessible on-line too; but this year – because of the growing presence and influence of on-line-only news sources – the North Carolina Press Association added a limited number of awards for the newly created “Online Division.”
Wake Forest Today picked up several nods from the judges, including 1st Place honors in the “Serious Column” category for my weekly contribution, “Reading Between the Lines.”
TIPPING POINT: In many respects we’re at a tipping point when it comes to how news is gathered and disseminated. There are many opinions when it comes to what works best, what communicates most accurately, and what best serves the crucial responsibility of “The Fourth Estate,” but it is becoming increasingly evident that what our society dare not lose is the committed, time-honored, incisive professionalism of the big regional daily, print-based newspapers.
Personally, I am proud to be part of the growing cadre of web-based journalists; I believe outlets such as Wake Forest Today provide a critically important voice in telling the story of our community. But it’s early days yet, and we need support in terms of “clicks,” “shares,” “word of mouth,” and paid advertising (or sponsorship) if we are going to be much more than a novelty.
Regardless, and in the words of Thomas Carlyle in On Heroes and Hero Worship (1840): “Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.”
Keep reading, friends; keep asking good questions; and don’t drive the Fourth Estate into the ground via either disinterest or an unwillingness to pay for something so critically important to the maintenance of our freedoms.