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Transitions 2020

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The new year is only a week old and already I’ve had two significant professional transitions.  The first is that after several years as a small business owner, I have sold my business.  The second is that I’ve returned to my journalism career as editor of a local newspaper.  It’s been a whirlwind of change and learning, and it’s been exhausting, but it’s also been exhilarating.

Life as a business owner was not new to me.  Thirty years ago, in the pre-internet era, I owned a franchise business.  It was fun and challenging and I loved being my own boss.  Most of all, I loved interacting with my clientele.  As an extrovert, I draw energy from interacting with others.  I also was a sole owner and, while the risk was solely mine, so was the reward.  I was also very young and had a growing family, so there were personal challenges as well.  Overall, I’d say it was a wonderful experience.

This time around, I had a partner and we built our business from the ground up.  No consultants to guide us, no corporation to hand us marketing materials and promotions.  Although the risk was greater without a corporate safety net, it’s been fun to see our business grow from an idea into something real and valuable.  A big challenge for me was spending most of my time in my home office.  I missed the client interactions and being alone was depressing at times.  The experience did teach me to be more mindful of self-care and to plan outings and lunches with friends and colleagues.  The partnership also taught me some valuable lessons about myself.  As someone who is a pleaser, I often yield too soon to others’ desires and opinions.  My drive to get along and be liked can be stronger than my need to stand up for what I think and what I know to be a good solution.  I look for compromise or, if there doesn’t appear to be a good one, I’m inclined to give in rather than push my agenda.  And while it’s good to choose one’s battles carefully, I too often choose to just walk away.

I’ve also learned that partnerships can be difficult and challenging, but the best ones are those where both parties feel heard and valued.  Differences of opinion can be a good growth opportunity and as long as there is trust and respect, those differences needn’t become make-or-break.  It is in the struggle that people can draw closer together.  And in the end, the reward was building something of value that we could successfully, and profitably, pass on to someone else.

So where am I now?  For most of my life I have been passionate about writing.  Words fascinate me with their power to move minds and hearts and to effect change.  These days, journalism gets a bad rap.  As with anything, there are bad apples that spoil the bunch.  But for most journalists, the responsibility and privilege to enlighten, engage, provoke, educate and entertain weighs heavy.  It may seem cliché but being a voice for those who have none and providing a check on the powerful in society and government is a calling.  I am excited to spend more time telling the stories of real people and events in my community.  I’m also thrilled to spend more time out in the world, observing and reflecting back what I see and hear.

I’ve been lucky to have several careers in my life.  Each one has led me to the other and each is a reflection of a part of myself.  Writing is the thread that has run through it all and the thing that feeds my soul.  It is the best expression of myself and the way I can best share myself with the world.  So, onward to the future.  I look forward to sharing more of this new chapter with all of you.  Happy New Year 2020!

 

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  A former small business owner, she is the current Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at http://www.jewishobservernashville.org .

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How Journalism is Evolving in a Tech Savvy World

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Just before I began journalism school, nearly 20 years ago, I attended an orientation for new students.  I was seated at a table with the Dean, an award-winning print and broadcast journalist, who asked me point blank if I thought newspapers were eventually going to disappear.  “I certainly hope not,” I answered, “I can’t imagine not starting my day with a cup of coffee and a newspaper.”  Indeed, the Internet was in its infancy, cell phones were tiny, laptops were big and bulky and analog video was still the reigning format for TV news.

But the writing was on the wall (no pun intended) and our university had just created a cutting edge, high tech program for incoming students called “Online Journalism.”  The younger undergrads and my young grad school classmates flocked to the program, eager to learn this new technology.  But me, I wanted no part of it.  I had waited a long time to pursue my passion for journalism and I was determined to rely on traditional, time honored, reporting methods.  In fact, I continued to take notes and do my writing in long hand in a spiral notebook.

Those that don’t evolve are soon left behind and after much teasing by my 20-something classmates, I taught myself to compose my assignments on my computer.  When the school built a multi-million dollar state of the art digital newsroom, I registered for classes to learn how to navigate the world of digital news reporting.  I actually enjoyed the process and was pretty good at editing.

Imagine my surprise when my first job after grad school, at a local public radio station, required me to learn how to record on and edit reel-to-reel tape!  The 50-year-old station still hadn’t upgraded to the digital technology I’d worked so hard to learn.  But in time, they also made the switch.

These days, my tools of the trade are all contained in my IPhone.  I can take notes, record, edit and upload stories to the cloud, all from a device that fits in my pocket and weighs a few ounces.  Both audio and video quality is sharp and I can produce stories anywhere at any time.  Rather than wait in a newsroom for an assignment or a call from a source, I can be on the job all the time, anywhere.  The news cycle is now 24 hours and the churn is never ending.

So how has this new digital world affected the profession of journalism itself?  Here the waters are much murkier.  Questions about what is news and who is a journalist are much more complicated now that pretty much anyone with a phone or a laptop can record and report on events.  And the quality and quantity of product also raises questions about what is news and what is entertainment.  There are more podcasts, blogs, vlogs and online programming than can be counted, and the numbers grow exponentially.  The simple question about the survival of newspapers seems quaint in today’s world where even venerable publications have laid off print staff in favor of bloggers, podcasters and online producers.  Is this bad?  I’m not sure.  The world is both expanding and shrinking as new technology connects us all in ways we never dreamed of when I started school.

What’s up ahead?  It’s unclear where this digital revolution is taking us.  My hope is that whether through formal education or trial and error, there will always be those people who are our eyes and ears throughout the world; people with integrity who can report honestly and fairly, shine a light on events and be a watchdog, a voice for those who have no voice.  For whatever form it takes, that is the mission of good journalism and there is no substitute.

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Check it out at http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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