Editor's Weekly

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.

For me, being a journalist is more than a job. It’s a state of mind, a way of relating to the world. It’s a commitment to keep asking questions and an understanding that some questions will never be fully answered.

At the end of this month, I will retire. Yet I’ve never felt more certain that my beleaguered profession matters. Let me explain why. Let me challenge you to think like a journalist, too.

First Amendment
Robin Klein | Wikipedia

Republican presidential candidates and anti-racism protesters at Mizzou don’t agree on much. Yet both made news recently by confronting journalists. Intentionally or not, they raised similar, significant questions about press freedom — and responsibility.

For journalists, it’s tempting to conclude that if you’re being criticized from opposite sides, you must be doing things right. It’s not that simple. Let’s break down the issues and look at what’s at stake — for reporters and for the public we are supposed to serve.

Footage of cell phone video of the Aug. 20, 2014, death of Kajieme Powell
Video provided by St. Louis Metropolitan Police

Michael Brown's death got international attention. But for those of us who live here in St. Louis, the police shooting of Kajieme Powell raises questions that are at least as troubling -- questions about police procedure, community trust and the confrontations that test both.

National Park Service

Like all great art, the Gateway Arch commands attention for more than its striking beauty. It also beckons us to see ourselves and our place in the world with new perspective.

Most St. Louisans have looked at the Arch thousands of times, yet each moment reveals a different face. Nature works its magic on the shiny steel with the changing seasons, the time of day, the glint of sun and the blur of clouds. The thoughts and feelings the Arch inspires change, too -- from day to day and era to era, following human cycles of aspiration and insight.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce has called Amendment 5 "a disaster." She's been heaping criticism on the "gun rights" measure for months.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

For the second time this year, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce’s office has subpoenaed St. Louis Public Radio and “requested” that we keep silent about it. For the second time, we’re speaking out because the public — you — has much at stake when a prosecutor goes on a fishing expedition in a news organization's files.

These renderings show what it would look like in National Car Rental Field. The car rental company forged a $158 million deal to name an in-flux riverfront stadium.
Courtesy of HOK

So now we know that our new football stadium would be called National Car Rental Field. That rolls off the tongue with an odd ring of impermanence – a reminder that stadiums and teams, like rental cars, come and go.

Native flowers growing alongside the Katy Trail near St. Charles.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Three questions pop up when people hear I’m planning to retire at the end of the year as editor of St. Louis Public Radio. Is there hidden drama? (No.) Are you healthy? (Yes.) Then comes the question people are more comfortable asking out loud: What do you plan to do?

Nothing, I say. It has turned out to be a surprisingly controversial answer.

Wellspring Church in Ferguson, September 21, 2015.
Kelly Moffitt, St. Louis Public Radio

Now that the Ferguson Commission has made its report, what are St. Louisans thinking? Monday at Wellspring Church in Ferguson, many expressed frustration — with officials, obstacles and each other. But another note sounded clearly through the discontent: determination to press forward.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon accepts a copy of the Ferguson Commission's recomendations from co-chairs Rich McClure (L) and Rev. Starsky Wilson during a press conference in Florissant.
Bill Greenblatt I UPI

Two unavoidable questions face St. Louisans now that the Ferguson Commission has made its report: What will change and who will change it? But something fundamental has changed already. Speaking as representatives of our region, the commission members declared – officially, directly and publicly: “We have not moved beyond race.”

Brittany Burke
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Arrogance, booze, geographic isolation and a gender power imbalance – those ingredients brew a culture in Jefferson City that is at times hazardous for women. This week, St. Louis Public Radio’s political team analyzed why the culture persists, who it hurts and whether it can be changed.

Supporters of raising St. Louis' minimum wage listen to testimony Tuesday at St. Louis City Hall.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

On Labor Day, we celebrate work by not working. How appropriate. Our attitudes about work are often contradictory, and current work-related debates raise puzzling questions.

Take the minimum wage. Recently, St. Louis decided to increase it; St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger reiterated why the suburbs would not, as Jason Rosenbaum reported.

We Must Stop Killing Each Other signs are posted on the security gate of a building near where Mansur Ball-Bey was shot by police.
Linda Lockhart I St. Louis Public Radio

Two recent deaths – the police killing of Mansur Ball-Bey and the incomprehensible shooting of 9-year-old Jamyla Bolden – felt like giant steps backward for a region already plagued by violence and mistrust. This week, St. Louisans took three small but significant steps forward, beginning to address the underlying problems that breed despair.

St. Louis Public Schools

On my street, and probably on yours, the kids went back to school this week, changing the rhythm of the neighborhood and evoking that peculiar sense of possibility that marks the end of summer.

Years after we’re out, school still shapes life -- personally and as a community. But as the news reminded us this week, the actual experience schools provide for students remains far from equal. And the process for making schools better remains mired in uncertainty.

Protests and chants came into the St. Louis County Council chambers Tuesday night.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

One year after Michael Brown’s death, St. Louisans are yearning for resolution. Truth is we’re nowhere close to achieving it. We can’t even be sure we’re on the right track. And yet, the anger and pain that we’ve experienced since last August have brought us to a new place. Call it the end of the beginning.

A sign in Old Mines, Mo., announces that Missouri French, or Paw Paw French, speakers live there 300 years after it was established. Still, the dialect is considered highly endangered.
Courtesy Illinois Country French Preservation Inc. | Facebook

America may be the land of opportunity, but history shapes our options. This week, history came to light in three St. Louis Public Radio reports.

Fireworks, fourth of july, reflected, horizontal, arch
Rachel Heidenry | 2008

Journalists can be an irreverent lot, yet most of us believe devoutly in the sanctity of the First Amendment. The Fourth of July is its holy day, and we are its acolytes. But this year, the celebration of a free press ought to be tempered with doses of concern and reality.

Confederate battle flag beside the Confederate Monument in front of the South Carolina Statehouse
J. Stephen Conn | Flickr | 2006

Symbols matter, as the groundswell against the Confederate flag  reminded us this week. But even if retailers shun it and South Carolina lowers it, how much substantive difference will that make? That will depend on whether the emotion of the moment reflects a deeper change of heart or a diversion from further action.

Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Two squalls of controversy blew in to dominate the news early this week — a mega-media frenzy over Rachel Dolezal’s race and a mini-media frenzy over the Cardinals hacking investigation. Both made surprising disclosures and touched on serious issues.

Yet here at St. Louis Public Radio, where we try to focus on news that matters, we wondered how much any of this might matter in the long run. Sadly, the horrendous shooting that killed nine black churchgoers Wednesday in Charleston put things in sharp perspective.

Principal GeNita Williams presents certificates to eighth graders at Normandy Middle School
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s easier to see problems than to solve them, easier to squelch ideas than to carry them to fruition. But in the news this week, you’ll find unmistakable signs that many St. Louisans are stepping up to turn our bleak winter into a season of growth.

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