A couple of years ago an author was visiting the area to promote his book about a hit man for the mob. After he spoke to the audience, the author — a lawyer by trade — mentioned that he had been intrigued by a career in journalism but didn’t think he could handle “the vow of poverty.”
We laughed, but I haven’t forgotten the off-hand comment.
Why do we do what we do?
In the 25th annual survey of jobs announced earlier this year, CareerCast listed newspaper reporter as the least desirable of 200 jobs surveyed. Worse than janitor. Worse than garbage collector. The buggy whip maker wasn’t on the list but was spared the insult.
Journalists everywhere face low starting pay, stress and the ever-changing news landscape. Newsies in the Wyoming Valley have the added and unusual reality of working in a two-newspaper town with a constant and pitched competition. That has kept us from being complacent but has also raised expectations of readers.
If not for money, then why?
When I look around our newsrooms I know it’s because the people working at The Times Leader (and The Sunday Dispatch, Dallas Post, Abington Journal and The Weekender) care beyond reason. We care deeply about gathering and disseminating the news. We care about the community.
If the final product in print or online does not meet expectations — yours or ours — it’s not for lack of effort. Every day the staff goes above and beyond to gather and package content for the print and digital channels. Many arrive early and stay late, giving to the effort that goes beyond mere work. To many people here it resembles a noble cause, a mission.
And I don’t think we’re alone in caring. The community is filled with people who work with dedication and commitment in their jobs and careers and then devote themselves to volunteer efforts. They teach and coach, they clean up and organize, they collect goods and raise money for causes too numerous to list.
All these caring people are the great resource of this place we call home. And over time the vision, imagination and effort of these people — the community — has resulted in the many things that make the area a better place to live. A performing arts center and an arena. A trail through the Back Mountain and a trail along the levee system. A city park, county parks and state parks. Five colleges in the Wyoming Valley, six total in Luzerne County. The area has vocal detractors but many more stoic supporters.
We have people who work hard, who care about the community and who want it to be better. Where do we go from here?
What dreams do you have for your community? If you could do anything at all, if there were no limits, what would it be? What do we need? Family-sustaining jobs? Safe communities? A healthy culture?
Better public school systems? Government that leads and inspires?
What keeps us from reaching these goals?
In 1994, I had the opportunity to meet and interview writer-director Frank Darabont just before the debut of his movie “The Shawshank Redemption.” Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins were at the press junket in New York, but the lasting memory was the filmmaker talking about the theme of people imprisoned by the restraints of circumstance. “You don’t have to be in prison to be imprisoned by something in your life,” said Darabont. “Fear of failure … it’s a really nasty tiger. You gotta lock that sucker up in a cage, otherwise it will eat you alive. It will prevent you from actually going out and trying to do things in your life, to pursue a dream that you have.”
So what’s our dream? How do we make our community better? I don’t know what the future holds but I know the only way we’ll get there is for people here to step up with vision, openness to change and effort.
Imagine a better community. Then let’s do it.