A journalist’s manifesto

June 11, 2008

By Jonathan Edwards


Scarcely a year ago, I stood arms akimbo, a newly minted bachelor’s degree in hand, confidently gazing across the panoramic horizon of infinite post-college possibilities.


I was going to grab the world by the horns, wrestle her to the ground like a rodeo cowboy and give her a big ol’ noogie until she squealed, “Olly olly oxen free!” and gave me what I wanted. The problem: I didn’t know what that was.


She ruthlessly jumped on my hesitation and indecision, got out of her prone position and punched me square in the face.


Like many cohorts of Generation Y, college graduation and the myriad career opportunities that would seemingly define who I would be forever and ever—this situation sent me into a paralyzing downward spiral of inaction where I languished for months.


I tried to lock myself away and hide from a world that kept pounding at my door, shouting, “This is your quarter-life crisis! Open up and tell us what you want to be immediately! You are a grown up!” 


A plumber, a cook, a retail salesman, a bartender, a six-month volunteer in post-Katrina New Orleans—I recently thought it would be fun to be either a taxi cab driver or a bike messenger—I have made a valiant effort to evade the Career Police. But they keep knocking, undeterred.


Like many baby boomers parenting their coming-of-age, Gen-Y youngsters, mine have been tirelessly supportive, and even my Greatest-Generation grandmother cannot be mussed into a cut-your-hair-and-get-a-real-job admonishment:


“You spent $60,000 of my money to graduate from UC Berkeley, and now you want to tend bar in New Orleans?” would have been a justified question coming from her.




“That sounds great. I am so proud of you. I wish I had explored more when I was your age,” is what she actually said when we touched on the subject months ago over the telephone. It wasn’t a backhanded compliment either. She meant it.


Grandma’s understanding aside, the time for indecision and inaction is over. This article is not only my answer to the Career Police—“I am a journalist.  I am a writer”—but a statement of how I will use this blog, and where I think journalism should aim as a profession.


In his March 2008 New Yorker article “Out of Print”, Eric Alterman foresees the inexorable demise of the printed newspaper:


“[T]rends in circulation and advertising––the rise of the Internet, which has made the daily newspaper look slow and unresponsive; the advent of Craigslist, which is wiping out classified advertising––have created a palpable sense of doom. Independent, publicly traded American newspapers have lost forty-two per cent of their market value in the past three years, according to the media entrepreneur Alan Mutter.”


After deciding this dying industry was the place for me, I wrote a cover letter, brushed the rust off my resume and collected story samples from my days as a student journalist.  I sent it all to 25 newspapers in Louisiana and New England. 


My three-month effort to break into the business proved Alterman’s article right.  Readers, more and more, are going online for their news. This means less money for newspapers, which has resulted in layoffs across the country. 


With veteran journalists seasoned by five to ten years experience gunning for the few entry-level positions available, I have not had the chance of brushing up on my interviewing skills, to put it politely.


So I am online with Lifeblood Beat to report the pulse of Mid-City and New Orleans, the neighborhood and city in which I live. I am determined to take advantage of Alterman’s doomsday thesis instead of being crushed under the forces it describes.


While the tide is shifting on the subject, most American newspapers still insist that there is an Objective Truth—capital O, capital T—and that reporters function as the unbiased conduits of this Truth from an event to the page. 


I make no such claim. Lifeblood Beat is to be a space for professional-quality journalism firmly rooted in issues and interests relevant to my community: Mid-City first, New Orleans second.


I will research and interview and write articles. But I do not want people experiencing this blog to read its content as passive storages of idle information.  React, engage, debate, dialogue—I want Lifeblood Beat to be an active part of an active community.


Say I got it right. Say I completely missed an entire perspective relevant to an issue. Say that selling liquor at the Brother’s Food Mart will/will not adversely affect the surrounding neighborhood because x, y, and z. Say something. 


I know I will.