Finding Good News in a Bad News Business

By Beacon Staff

You’ve probably heard the murmurings. Newspapers are dying. Profits are down. The physical size of pages is shrinking. In the past year, The Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Newsday, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and a slew of smaller papers have downsized their staffs.

As a journalist I get asked these questions frequently: Isn’t your profession dying? Aren’t newspapers bleeding at the bottom line? Won’t new media make newspapers obsolete?

Trust me, I ask these questions frequently of myself. And the answer is: Yes, of course. And no. OK, sort of.

The truth is I don’t really know. A lot of things in this business are changing, and while there are a lot of negatives to focus on, there are also a lot of exciting things (in my dorky, newsy opinion) going on in the industry. When I’m down on the business I go searching for good stories, the type that keep my enthusiasm for journalism going for weeks. And yesterday I hit the jackpot: The Memphis Commercial Appeal just promised me enough good journalism to carry me through the year.

In a time when many newspapers are downsizing their international and investigative reporting (two, often very costly departments), the Commercial Appeal just sent one reporter and one photographer around the world. Their goal: to report stories that show how Memphis affects lives around the world. Over the next six weeks the paper will feature a new story every Sunday by reporter Trevor Aaronson and photographer Alan Spearman, who will share their perspectives on Memphis in India, Memphis in Israel, Memphis in Zambia, Memphis in South Africa, Memphis in Brazil and Memphis in China.

Week one, a story about the work of Bellevue Baptist – a 30,000-member church in Memphis, the nation’s second-largest Southern Baptist congregation – missionaries in India, already gave me plenty to think about (namely, how much I want Aaronson’s job). Be sure to check out the photo and multimedia galleries.

So, thanks to the Commercial Appeal for the pick-me-up, and I hope you’ll join me in looking forward to the coming weeks.