January 26, 2006

The Power of One (II)

While some journalist organizations are engaging in overwrought rhetoric about the future of quality journalism, some individual journalists are proving that passion, drive and the relentless pursuit of excellence can mean much more than money when it comes to doing good work.

Larry Welborn is such a journalist.

Some time ago, I wrote about Robert O' Harrow, a Washington Post reporter who wrote a book about the collision of national security and privacy (an even more timely subject today). [Read: The Power of One.] Harrow urged his fellow reporters, as I said, to be dogged, follow truth and think big. He said:

"You have one life, one career, you might as well shoot for the stars."

I'm sure Larry Welborn would agree. Welborn, a reporter with the Orange County Register, wrote an eight-part series, Murder by Suicide, recounting his 30-year passion to tell the story of the mysterious 1974 death of a young woman.

Chip Scanlan, the Poynter Institute writing guru, interviewed Welborn. Here's a sample (emphasis added):

Scanlan: What's the most important lesson you've learned from this story?

Welborn: That a good story, well-told, will still capture and hold readers. Even if it is an eight-part serial.

Scanlan: What's your message to other journalists?

Welborn: Never give up on a good story. Never, never, never. Trust your instincts.

While it is right to be concerned about media ownership and the ongoing financial difficulties of newspapers, these issues are going to continue and are for the most part outside the control of the newsrooms. [Read: Get Ready for the 2006 Newsroom Blues.]

Journalists can, however, control what's in the newspaper - even if it's smaller this year than last year. Let's concentrate on that. As I said in my post about Robert O'Harrow: Quality journalism requires passion and persistence. These are characteristics that can't be downsized.

(Read the rest of Chip Scanlan's interview with Welborn. Get inspired.)

UPDATE: By the way, Scanlan has a new blog, The Mechanic and the Muse.

Tags: , ,

Posted by Tim Porter at January 26, 2006 08:13 AM