Declining newspaper sales. Millennials inability to read more than 140 characters. The overload of information available online. Migration of ads and classified ads money to social media. Increasing numbers of news companies going out of business or drastically reducing their permanent staff. All these elements mark a narrative of a dark future for journalism in the written form.
In Minnesota it was seven o’clock in the morning on August 26th when I woke up to see an unexpected message in Facebook. “Stay safe” my colleague and friend from BTV News Yavor Nikolov had warned me. In Sofia it was three in the afternoon. It was my second week in the WPI fellowship and it was difficult for me to follow through everything newsworthy in Bulgaria. Why should I be safe, I wrote back anxiously. His reply was a BBC news link. It was a post about the killing of Alison Parker and Adam Ward.
"Government shall make no law (…) abridging the freedom of speech or of the press".
It is the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights from 1791 that manifests this fundamental freedom for the United States States of America - by that time a young democracy aged 15 years.
As you may know a freedom as such never comes for free. In many parts of the world our ancestors had to fight for this freedom at some time. In far too many countries the people still have to fight for it. Often they pay the highest price you can imagine. They pay with their lives. And even if other countries have already achieved this fundamental freedom, you can never be sure that it is going to last forever.
Freedom is not for free. There is a price we have to pay. At least pay some attention.
The opportunities we’ve had in the last several weeks to visit some of the most fabled newsrooms in the U.S. have been both inspiring and humbling. Whether standing by the hallowed coffee machines of the New York Times after attending the morning news meeting, or making idle chit chat in the elevator at the Washington Post, I’ve been struck by how hard so many people must have worked in these newsrooms, to turn them into the living legends that they are.
After visiting the Native-American National Pipestone Monument in Tracy, Minnesota, I was given an “Indian” nickname by my colleagues: Sleepy Giant. The ‘sleepy’ aspect comes from being somewhat exhausted at certain times, and not afraid to say so. The giant part is nothing new: I’m 6,5 and quite massive. When I’m confronted with others telling me I’m gigantic, I usually try to turn that into an opportunity to share a fun fact: in my home country, the Netherlands, the tallest people in the world roam the grounds.