Do some damn reporting.
Shed new light.
Think hard before you write.
These imperatives might seem like directives from a high school English professor but they were words of wisdom shared by Dorothy Kalins at the Association of Food Journalists 2016 Conference being held in Seattle this week.
Kalins is the founding editor of Saveur Magazine and her career in journalism spans decades and countless assignments. Tasked with giving the keynote presentation, Kalins started by painting a rather dark and gloomy picture of the current state of journalistic affairs. Even though the sky was blue in Seattle yesterday, clouds wafted throughout the room.
Kalins played hard ball. She reminded us of the cataclysmic shifts in journalism and how we are all being asked to produce far more content in far shorter time frame. She assured us that we aren’t crazy for thinking we are working in a difficult climate and reiterated what we all already knew: The old rules do not apply.
She said we live in a pernicious Wikipedia world where it is far too easy and tempting to scoop up what has already been written without checking what’s been written. She acknowledged that this difficult environment lets us down as journalists because getting it out is often more “important” than getting it right.
Even though the reality was tough to swallow, Kalins wrapped up on a high note and offered inspiration. In a no nonsense tone she assured us that all isn’t lost and that we are still in the driver’s seat. She urged us to take the high road, maintain standards and expect more. I jotted notes as quickly as I could while she talked. Here are some of her pithy tips:
- The Personal Essay Category needs fresh thinking. Cut through the fat of personal opinion and stop the indulgence of first person journalism. Be original.
- Do some Damn reporting!
- Be Inspired!
- Shed new light.
- Think hard before you write!
- Now more than ever, we must be our own editors. Our own task masters.
- Internalize that voice.
- Make that damn phone call. (Ditch the email interviews!)
- Have that primal experience of research.
- Get out of your chair!
- Welcome questions
And, most importantly, she said, “We do not lose our nerve. We do what journalists have always done. We look around corners…we go out and we tell the world.”