No, no, no

“In 2017, parts of our industry long asleep woke up to some of the insidious consequences of saying “yes” to the status quo too often. In 2018, by saying “no” to the right things, we can make room to say “yes” to awakened opportunities.”

I like to say “yes” whenever possible. Is there another way to approach something? Can we be creative here? Sure — we can do that story — but let’s make sure it’s crafted for someone we’re not already reaching. No problem — let’s make that work. That makes sense, let’s pursue that partnership.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

But saying “no” is important too. In 2018, journalism organizations will — and must — start saying “no” to things that harm us as people and harm the public’s experience with our work.

No, we won’t allow “open secrets” to exist in our organizations, because our colleagues deserve transparency and safety.

No, we won’t hire that person who is talented but a jerk to colleagues, because someone who is talented and kind is eager to take their place. (And no, we won’t keep that person who is a jerk to others currently on staff either.)

No, national journalists won’t parachute into local communities and tell their stories to the world without doing our homework, because every time we’re off, trust in the media erodes a little bit more.

No, local journalists won’t tell the stories of people in our own communities like anthropologists, because that makes sure that part of the community knows our work isn’t for them.

No, we won’t allow the continuation of unpaid internship programs, because they often exclude the very people some hiring managers claim they “can’t find” to fill full-time positions.

No. No. No.

And that’s hardly a complete list. 2018 will be a time of great resetting in journalism. Think about the number of major media figures removed in the past few months alone. The staffs of those shows and organizations, suddenly without jobs. The full-scale rethinking of properties built around singular people.

It’s a moment of course-correction at scale — and we can’t afford to falter. The opportunities ahead are dazzling — in decisions big and small.

How many “open secrets” can we expose to make our organizations safer? How many talented, and kind, people can we give jobs to make our workplaces better? How many national/local partnerships can we foster so that the work we produce resonates both locally and nationally? How many neighbors can we get to know so our local journalism is deeper and more meaningful? How many interns can we pay, creating our own pipelines of talent reflecting our country and our communities?

All of us, no matter our role, have the ability to say no to something we know is holding us back.

In 2017, parts of our industry long asleep woke up to some of the insidious consequences of saying “yes” to the status quo too often. In 2018, by saying “no” to the right things, we can make room to say “yes” to awakened opportunities.

is managing editor for digital at ‎WAMU.

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