It's often said that Americans fear public speaking more than snakes, spiders or IRS agents. When I took this job, I was initially daunted by the amount of public speaking it entailed.
But as I approach my third anniversary in the editor's chair, I am surprised about how much I've grown to enjoy it. People in our communities care deeply about this paper, and expect and demand much from it. Talking to people is the best way, I've found, to discover what people like and what they find lacking.
I sometimes need to check my tongue, and my eye rolling, when petty criticisms are leveled, or it’s suggested that the paper has been on a downward track since the invention of the radio. But often the criticisms or suggestions are good ones. After all, if people didn't read us, didn't respect us and didn't care about us, there would be no reason for complaints.
By way of example: During a presentation I gave to the Glendale Noon Kiwanis late last month, several people said they wished the paper would expand its coverage of local service clubs.
This was not the first time I'd heard this complaint. My response has been that I decline to reduce the depth of our news coverage in favor of softer features and calendar items. That is, I believe we better serve the community through news.
But, given the state of our economy, it is time to revisit this. In a real way, it may be possible to have both. Though I'm still working on the details, look for increased coverage of service clubs and other local organizations in the coming weeks and months.
Along those lines, I also want the paper to better formalize its community outreach. In years past, the Glendale News-Press and Burbank Leader had community editorial boards, something I would like to restart for those papers, as well as for the La Cañada Valley Sun and Pasadena Sun.
Again, these ideas are in the early planning stages. And, due to the work involved in doing it right, the boards will have to be rolled out one-by-one, instead of all at once. However, the general idea is to get people representing all areas of our community — civic, business and non-profit leaders, indeed, but also the overlooked and downtrodden, soccer moms and scoutmasters.
As these boards get closer to reality, I'll announce it here.
On a somewhat related note, I want to say that I was honored to be the keynote speaker for the Youth Leadership Conference held Thursday at Glendale Community College. The conference, held annually by the Glendale Character & Ethics Project, brings together high school students from Glendale, Burbank and La Cañada for a day-long exploration of ethics and leadership. (Full disclosure: I am a member of the Character & Ethics board.)
In my talk, I gave some real-life examples of how ethics functions in the workplace, specifically within this one. The practice of journalism can be a tricky one, with competing loyalties, and few markers to guide us through the gray areas.
What is important, I told the group, is to have a clear sense of right and wrong, and the courage to stand up for those beliefs. Journalists are charged with speaking truth to power, regardless of its impact on those in power or, occasionally, on the journalists themselves.
As these high schoolers graduate, move into college or their careers, they will run across people who act in an unethical manner. Confronting such people politely but firmly — especially if they happen to be your boss — is a true act of courage, and a cornerstone of a good leader.
Though I only had a brief time with these students, I am extremely optimistic that we will be well served by these future leaders. Onward!