Courage, discipline and time. These are the ingredients that comprise great reporting. These are the characteristics that allow our writers to author pieces that challenge conventional wisdom, spark investigations and inspire legislation. It’s heady stuff.
My arm hurts. A job-related injury, no less. Who knew stretching before repeatedly patting oneself on the back was so important? This past weekend I accompanied a small group of Long Island Press staffers to Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to attend the New York Press Association’s annual convention and awards ceremony. Not only was it an exceptional weekend in one of my favorite towns in America, but the Press did exceedingly well in the competition. In fact, we crushed it.
In addition to winning 23 awards, 13 taking top honors, the Press received the Stuart C. Dorman Award for Editorial Excellence. Or, if you prefer: Newspaper of the Year. When we returned home, we were also notified that Chris Twarowski’s investigative series on the Cedar Creek sewage treatment facility was a finalist for the coveted Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) Awards.
Remarkably, I have yet to partake in the Dionysian revelry—feasting upon grapes and red wine whilst paraded through the office by strapping young men carrying me in a sedan chair—that typically accompanies such an impressive honor.
The business of journalism has changed, but the journalism we value as a culture has not. Unfortunately, the reality of the former has impacted the sheer volume of the latter, which has led to a dearth of quality, long-form investigative journalism. This was evidenced by the fact that we swept both the in-depth reporting and the feature story categories. This is not to say our victories were preordained by the process of elimination; rather, it is because we determined as an organization that this would be the area of our field in which we excel. And we do.
This isn’t all about the reporting and editing. It takes discipline to shelve a story that hits a dead end, no matter how long a story has been pursued. It takes courage to run with a story that has the potential to spurn advertisers or invite personal harm. It takes time for writers to hone their craft and develop their intuition.
Courage, discipline and time. These are the ingredients that comprise great reporting. These are the characteristics that allow our writers to author pieces that challenge conventional wisdom, spark investigations and inspire legislation. It’s heady stuff. But they do not perform in a vacuum. This is a contract between writer and reader, one that is based upon trust. So, although the accolades and awards from our peers offer validation of our principles, our exuberance stems more from the fact that our product and presence have grown on Long Island more in the past two years than at any time during our nine-year journey.
We have grown in the financial sense, yes, though it would be difficult to imagine performing worse given the economic tsunami in 2008 that accompanied an already declining ad-revenue market, paired with the great migration from print to online. More importantly, our print readership and circulation has remained stable while our online readership has grown more than 400 percent. I offer this not as a self-indulgent note (a continuation of the self-congratulatory diatribe above) but as an affirmation that journalism on Long Island is thriving in both our print and online manifestations; a clear benefit to you, the reader, and to our social, economic and political systems as a whole.
At a time when the public is decrying the lack of transparency in government, the news media are still the primary sources for the antidote. And while many in our industry are bemoaning the continuing decline in advertising revenue and the direct impact it has on our collective ability to challenge the establishment and demand greater probity from power brokers and public officials, we could not be more excited to meet the challenge. In fact, I firmly believe there has never been a more exciting, necessary and interesting time to be in the field of journalism.
The Long Island Press is entirely advertiser supported; therefore, our contract extends to our clients as well. Because we hold doggedly to our integrity and refrain from breaching the sacred wall between advertising and editorial, we have also managed over the past nine years to assemble a discerning clientele who recognize the value of our honesty, even when they may vehemently disagree with something we have written.
Our success this week is a powerful reminder that we serve two masters: advertisers and readers. The unwritten contractual common ground is a bond that is enduring and growing ever stronger. The timing of it all gave me pause and a reason to take a break from my normal harangue to acknowledge the role we all play in disseminating the truth. This collaboration means the world to us, which is why we proudly accept the honors bestowed upon us this week, and the ones in years past, on behalf of the companies that support us and the readers who hold us accountable and rightfully demand more of their local newspaper.