Editor's Weekly parting thoughts Part 2: The flame is in good hands

Dec 10, 2015

Most of the editors I've admired left their newsrooms because they were pushed out or carried out. Fortunately, neither is the case for me. I’m happily looking forward to retirement at the end of this month and to finding out what happens when you stop juggling work and life and just let life take over.

I would not leave if I thought that would in any way jeopardize the success of this organization or its mission of reporting news that matters. It's an old mission made new by ongoing transformation of the ways people get and share news.

That mission has thrived in the two years since St. Louis Public Radio and the St. Louis Beacon merged. Each day, we learn more about how to reach St. Louisans with interesting, significant reporting. Each day, we take one more step in building a powerful local news organization that informs St. Louisans on air and online in whatever ways they find most useful and convenient. As a unified organization, St. Louis Public Radio is strong and well positioned to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

There are only two certainties for journalism. News organizations that don't change will die. And news organizations that lose their principles will be worthless.

These last few years have been the most fulfilling of my career. It's an honor to work with so many dedicated colleagues. It's a privilege to have the chance to find new ways to serve St. Louisans with the journalism we love -- journalism that is grounded in facts and that spreads deeper understanding.

I learned that kind of journalism at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where Joseph Pulitzer's Platform articulates the guiding principles. It challenged us every day to "always be drastically independent" and to "never be satisfied with merely printing news."

The flame passed from the first Joseph Pulitzer to the second and the third, and it was carried by some truly great editors and reporters who inspired me. It wasn’t always smooth and easy, and it didn't always go well.

But somehow it brought me to this time and place -- a very different time and place. And that flame is burning in our newsroom as well.

It's thriving because we hold in our hearts certain principles and a mission of public service. And it's thriving because we challenge ourselves to find new ways to fulfill that mission.

We have been willing to take risks. Some are big, institutional risks like the merger. Some are personal, day-to-day risks of building a digital-age newsroom -- resisting the temptation to spread unverified information; finding a better way to tell a story on the web; going to Ferguson when tear gas and bullets were flying and also when they weren't.

Risk and change are essential. If you look around, there are only two certainties for journalism. News organizations that don't change will die. And news organizations that lose their principles will be worthless.

I trust that St. Louis Public Radio will be steady – that it will hold to the principles and mission that make it valuable to St. Louisans. And I trust that St. Louis Public Radio will be bold – that it will continue to take risks and make changes. The flame is in good hands.