The Curse of the Written Word

Keeping up with this month’s theme of the spooky and creepy, I want to share my feelings about one of the curses of the Written Word. Don’t worry, it’s not really one of those curses that’ll turn you into a frog, newt, or any other amphibian. I don’t have that power.

But I do have another power granted to me by the Written Word.

See, words have power. The power to create, to sustain, to build up, and to grant freedom. Take the United States Declaration of Independence for example. Written in 1776, this document explained why 13 colonies sought to free themselves from the Kingdom of Great Britain.

“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

You can’t tell me those two paragraphs are simply a well-connected string of words and punctuation. Those words have meaning. They, and the entire document that follows them, contain a power that has created a nation, has sustained that nation for over 200 years, has built up other countries that have sought independence, and has granted freedom to an unmeasurable number of men, women, and children.

People say magic doesn’t exist. Whenever I hear that claim, I ask them if they’ve ever read a book.

With all powerful things, there are neglectful people that use it haphazardly. And, of course, there are evil people that use it for abusive practices. Look at Twitter to see some of those abusive practices.

You might be thinking, “Jim, who are you to accuse us of abusing the power of the written word?” Because, dear reader: I’m a horrible practitioner of the written word. If you’ve read my past rants, you’ll know what I think of both James Patterson and the State of Michigan. Unlike the Founding Fathers, I’ve never used my power for good when it came to those two subjects.

Recently, I’ve been using it without thinking of the implications. The true curse of the written word is that it’s hard to interpret a message from a friend. I remember when I was married, my wife accused me once that I didn’t love her. It was on a way home from work. She was sitting in the passenger seat of our van and I was driving. She was abnormally silent, and I knew something was up. You could always tell when she was angry about something when she was quiet. Silence, in this case, was deadly.
After spending some time coaxing her into talking, she responded that I hadn’t ended a text with “I love you.”

It didn’t help that I laughed when she said that. I couldn’t help it. I thought I’d accidently done something wrong. After a few more minutes of driving in silence (her anger had renewed and grown after my outburst of laughter), she informed me that when I had texted back “Sure, Taco Bell sounds good” and I had left out those essential three words, the message was interpreted that while I loved Taco Bell, I somehow didn’t love her. So, after that day, I’d always text back with those three words. Even when I was indisposed. Example: “I’ll be downstairs in a minute. I’m using the bathroom… I love you.”

It’s been my experience that I often text something I think it funny, but when others read it, they are offended, confused, or think I’m serious. That’s why if I ever text you, you’ll usually receive another text saying “lol jk.” For those that don’t know lol means laugh out loud and jk means just kidding.

It hits me hard when I hear back from people that I’ve offended them by something I’ve texted. I recently hurt someone close to me due to this. It’s painful for them, and it’s painful for me.

Texting someone is convenient, but we lose something in the translation between word of mouth and the written word. That’s the true curse of the written word.

As Uncle Ben once said to one of my favorite superhero’s: “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

Treat the power you have. Don’t trick people with it.

The Social Writer: The Art of the Blog

It takes amazing willpower to enter Barnes & Nobles without walking out a book. Apparently, I have absolutely no willpower because I left with three books. One of them was a book titled “Blogging for Writers: How Authors and Writers Build Successful Blogs” written by Robin Houghton.

blogging for writersIn my experience, as an author, social media has its advantages and disadvantages. On the negative side, I waste a lot of time endlessly scrolling through Facebook and Twitter when I should be writing. However, in this technological age it’s imperative that authors risk the temptation. Not only can social media introduce you to other writers, but you can use it to introduce yourself and your books to literally millions of people. This week’s Mastering the Craft will discuss what is a blog and other topics.

Houghton starts things off by explaining that a blog “is simply a particular type of website, for the main part consisting of posts (articles) usually date-stamped, and organized in reverse chronology so that the visitor always sees the most recent post first.”

My website is exactly that. If you head over to https://james-master.com/category/mastering-the-craft/ you’ll find all of my Mastering the Craft columns in reverse chronological order. My first bit of advice is this: if you’re going to write a blog, write about something that interests you. On my website you’ll find articles about my writing journey, but you’ll also find some sample fiction as well as a section that compares movies against the films they were adapted from.  Your readers can tell if your interested in the subject. At least, if you’re a decent writer.

There are three attributes all blogs should contain: frequency, brevity, and personality. In my experience, frequency is the easiest of the three but it’s also the easiest to fail at. I know how that sounds, but it’s true. If your blog doesn’t have fresh content for your readers, they won’t come back to it. Imagine if your local newspaper quit publishing on their normal schedule. You’d quit buying and reading it right? Same goes with blogs. It’s all about schedule. Set a reminder on your phone to site down and write a post. Heck, write five of them on your day off and schedule them to post automatically for the future. Once you get into that rhythm, it’s all downhill from there.

Brevity is the one I struggle at the most. When writing short stories, I often exceed or come very close to the maximum word limit because there’s just so much to tell. You wouldn’t really think it, but crafting a good micro-fiction, a short story consisting of under 1,000 words, is pure artwork. I struggle with writing one of these columns in under 1,000 words. You guys don’t know it, but I delete so many puns and pop culture references because I try to keep these around 900 words. You have to convey your point and its arguments in a concise and interesting manner yet not write a novel. It’s tough.
Personality is somewhat difficult to convey through your writing. Developing your blogging persona is important. Houghton writes:

“Perhaps the idea of sharing anything to do with your personal life makes you feel uncomfortable. That’s fine, but decide where you personally draw the line. It’s different for everyone. If blogging their daily life and work routine, some bloggers are happy to mention their family members by name, but won’t post photos of them. Others have no problems with that, but don’t use real names.”

When I write Mastering the Craft, I take a conversational approach as if I’m sitting down with you at a café drinking coffee. Which I am mostly, drinking coffee that is. I don’t share names of my friends or relatives though, opting to use pronouns instead. Sure, you could be a creeper and search for the names of my sisters or my ex-wife, maybe even comb through my Facebook friends list. It’s easy to do.

Another aspect of personality is: how transparent will you be? Mastering the Craft often blends my writing life with my… well, my real life. If you read one of my columns, you’ll find that, more often than not, that there’s a deeper meaning. Sure, they’re all about writing but they’re also so much more.  Houghton writes that “not everyone wants to lay themselves bare by mentioning rejections, spats, loss of motivation, or other negative aspects of their writing life. Others revel in it and find visitor numbers and comments increase when their blog posts are at their most raw and honest.” It’s really about your comfort level.

Like I mentioned above, brevity is the thing I’m worst at and now I’m looking at the word count exceeding 800 words. Alas, my dear readers, it’s time we part for another week. I’ve only just purchased this book but if you’re interested in getting into blogging, it’s definitely worth it.

Happily ever after…

Guilty pleasures. We all have them, even if we don’t want to admit it. I mean, that’s sort of the point of guilty pleasures. One of mine is watching movies with really sad endings. Like, if you don’t tear up during the film then don’t bother making me watch it. Then, as part of the guilty pleasure, I make other people watch them with me. Spoiler warning for some films I discuss today. Here are a few of my “go-to” guilty pleasure films:

  1. Me Before You (2016)
  2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
  3. A Quiet Place (2018)
  4. Road to Perdition (2002)
  5. Avengers Infinity War (2018)

I know, I’m sadistic.

Before writing this, I started thinking about why I take pleasure in this odd activity. One reason is that I have no soul and can’t gauge emotions, so I want to watch other people when they’re sad in order to copy their emotions. Another reason I came up with is that I’m so depressed that I like to watch fictional characters in pain, this way I take solace that my life isn’t as messed up as theirs.

Maybe I just like realistic storytelling in my films and novels.

That’s right. Sometimes we don’t all live happily ever after. Sometimes the guy doesn’t get the girl in the end. Maybe the father dies at the end in order to save his boy’s eternal soul. Maybe everybody dies at the end of a zombie movie. Maybe the coach mercy kills the paralyzed athlete. Maybe, the bad guy wins and destroys 50 percent of all life in the universe.

Did I just spoil a bunch of films for you? Well too bad! Sometimes we have movie endings spoiled for us. Maybe you should have gone and watched them. Maybe… just maybe… we overuse the word “maybe.”

Now, know what you’re all saying. “But Jimmy, why would I want to go to the theater and watch a film with a sad ending?”

I completely understand. Look at the current “Infinity Saga” that Marvel just pumped out. Starting with Iron Man (2008) until Avengers: Endgame (2019), the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has produced 22 films. How many of those ended with a happy ending? Every. Single. One. Of. Them.

Again, I know what you’re saying. “But Jimmy, in Avengers: Infinity War half of all life was dusted. How is that a happy ending?” To answer that, I’d argue that Thanos the Mad Titan was the protagonist and the Avengers were the “bad guys” of the film. With Thanos completing his task, he achieved his happy ending.

Every MCU film is predictable. You know going into the film that the hero will win, the bad guys will lose, and that everything will be alright. It’s boring. Don’t get me wrong, I love each and every one of those films, but that’s why I have my guilty pleasures. For once, I’d like to see a hero fail at the end of an origin film. That would give the hero an excellent redemption arc in the second and third film. Why don’t they do it? Two words: Box Office. If the film doesn’t do well, then there might not be a second film. You have to perform well in the first film. Meaning a happy ending where the hero wins the day.
You know, the more I think about it, the first film is like a presidential term. If the first one doesn’t do well, there won’t be a second one.

Films that end happily are also a lie. Do you want to know the biggest lie in cinema? Here it is: “And they all lived happily ever after.” It trains children, and depressed adult male writers, that if they try hard and do all they can to overcome their obstacles then they’ll triumph in the end and live “happily ever after.”

Horror movies aren’t even exempt. In the film Dawn of the Dead (1978), the main characters are evacuating from the mall as it’s being overran by zombies. Two of the characters die and turn into the undead while the very pregnant woman gets into a helicopter. Because in the 70’s aircraft births were the thing. The last guy was locked in his room with a gun to his head. He was waiting until the zombies burst in before killing himself, because that makes a difference. At this point, I’m waiting for the film to end darkly. Then, for some reason, the guy has a change of heart. A song that’s reminiscent of the theme to The A-Team plays and the guy fights his way through the horde of the undead to board the helicopter. Together, they take off riding into the sunlight. Happily Ever After.

Again, I know what you’re going to say: “But Jimmy, these are fictional scenarios that’ll never happen. And you’re saying they need to be realistic?”

Here’s my conclusion (tip to all essay writers: never write that as your last paragraph. It’s tacky). Every story needs to have some realism to it. I’m not saying that every ending to every story has to be sad, depressing, or soul crushing. It’s my belief that even in defeat, lessons can be learned. Movies should have more endings where the hero ultimately loses but learns something valuable from the defeat.

Now, as to my mental health, I’m sure you’re all concerned. Because, if I’m being honest with you last week’s rant and this one was depressing. Don’t worry about me.

I’m sure I’ll live happily ever after.

Story and Plot, part two

In last week’s MtC (that’s the working abbreviation for Mastering the Craft, just trying it out), I talked about the interwoven relationship between story and plot and how you can’t have one without the other. Sorta like that theme song to Married with Children. It isn’t absolutely required that you read last week’s MtC, but if you wanted to boost my self-esteem then go right ahead. Don’t worry I’ll wait for everyone to catch up… you good? Great, onto part two.

So now that you know that story is everything the reader needs to know and the plot is the portion of the story that the writer presents to the reader, let’s talk about what exactly goes into the two narrative elements.

Let’s say I get arrested by the police. Let’s say it was for attempted murder. And, just for the sake of fun, let’s call the victim Mr. Language. His first name’s English. They put me in the interrogation room and a detective says, “tell me where you were on the night of the murder of English Language.”

The initial response would be to tell the detectives everything I’d done that day from beginning to end. That would be my story of what happened. Which is exactly what “story” is, it’s what happens from beginning to end.

Janet Burroway, in her book Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft, states that “a story is a series of events recorded in their chronological order.” It makes sense, right? In the case of the story I told the detective, I stated the events from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed, beginning to end.

Any fiction movie, television show, book has a story. Remember from last week that Burroway defined story as “everything the reader needs to know to make coherent sense of the plot.” Note the phrase “coherent sense.” What exactly does that mean? In the case of my story to the detective, they wouldn’t want to know that I brushed my teeth with a baking soda toothpaste or that I ordered my pizza without onions because I hated the texture of the vegetables. Those are details that the detectives don’t need to know in order to make “coherent sense” of my story. The same goes when you’re writing a book.

“Random incidents neither move nor illuminate; we want to know why one thing leads to another and to feel the inevitability of cause and effect,” states Burroway.

How does that affect the plot then, you may ask? That’s right! I have another quote from Burroway (this is starting to sound like a thesis paper) that states “a plot is a series of events deliberately arranged so as to reveal their dramatic, thematic, and emotional significance.” Have you ever wondered why a chapter ends with a cliffhanger? What about when Darth Vader reveals that he is Luke’s father, but then nothing is resolved until the next movie? Those are examples of the writers arranging things to deliver a more emotional and dramatic impact on their audience.

Look at the film Reservoir Dogs (1992), written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. If you’ve never seen it, the story is about a group of thieves that attempt a jewelry store heist but things go really wrong due to an undercover cop in their midst. The “story” starts with the undercover cop learning to become a thief in order to infiltrate the group, interacting with the group before the heist, the heist going poorly, the escape, the regrouping of the thieves, then the end. The “plot” is totally different. Tarantino starts the film with the regrouping scene after everything goes wrong. Flashbacks are used intermittently to show the audience more information about who could possibly be the undercover cop. You don’t know into much later in the film. It is clever and if you’ve never seen it before it’s a watch if you’re looking to properly utilize how to create an emotional and dramatic buildup.

It looks like it’s my time to leave you all for another week. Next week, I’ll be discussing more elements within “Story and Plot” so be prepared for more Burroway quotes and maybe I’ll let you know whether or not I was officially charged with the murder of English Language. See? I’m using plot to create a cliffhanger.

Spoiler: English Language deserved it. He allowed the Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey books to exist. Someone had to act.

Story and Plot, part one

If I had to define my writing style, I’d have to say that I’m a “pantser.” If you’ve never heard that term before, it means to write by the seat of your pants. If you’re still confused, it means to typically write without having things planned out. A “plotter” is someone that typically writes only after fully plotting the story out. While there’s nothing wrong with either types of writing style, I have to wonder about the significance of story and plot when considering the “pantser” and “plotter” writing styles. If a “pantser” writes by the seat of his/her pants, then where does the plot factor in? Is there even a plot?
Well, duh, plot still exists within your work regardless if you detail every little thing. While moving around some things in my office, I came upon some of my old college text books. When I was in college, I would sell back the books that weren’t in my major and would keep all the text books that were associated with English and writing. One book in particular, “Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft” written by Janet Burroway, had me opening it to this definition:

“Humphry House, in his commentaries on Aristotle, defines story as everything the reader needs to know to make coherent sense of the plot, and plot as the particular portion of the story the author chooses to present – the “present tense” of the narrative.”

Look, I know what you’re thinking. Who is Humphry House? Believe me, I was wondering that myself. After searching the reputable site Wikipedia for a while, I found absolutely nothing. How disappointing. After googling the name, I found that he was a “pioneer of modern literary-historical scholarship of Dickens, a popular teacher at both Oxford and Cambridge, and frequent presenter of talks on the BBC.” He sounds like a cool dude. But what does Burroway and House mean?
Simply put, the plot is absolutely everything you wish to present in your book. Your main character might be left handed (shout out to those that are) or maybe has a restriction to only one cup of coffee a day. However, it’s your decision as the author whether to allow the reader to see those details.
I know that’s hard to understand. Frankly, I think it’s sort of weird too. I mean… how do you just have one cup of coffee a day? There are people out there that do… you know who you are.
So what is the use of story if we know plot is what is presented to the reader? Going back to House and Burroway, we know that story is everything the reader needs to understand the plot. If your main character’s coffee restriction doesn’t play into the events of your book, is that detail something that should be presented to the reader? Maybe yes, maybe not. The detail could be served to create more character depth. Quirky behaviors and other details like coffee restrictions serve to create a fleshed-out character. People that have similar coffee restrictions might feel connected to the character. However, if you do write in that quirky detail, then make sure to either have it connected into the story or not play into it too much.
Now that I’ve explained just a tiny bit about what House and Burroway say about story and plot, how does that effect the writing styles of “pantsing” and “plotting?” Obviously, if you’re one that plots every little detail in your work then it doesn’t really affect you. If you’re like me and don’t do a lot of planning, does it really effect you?
I’ve always looked to Stephen King when I needed author advise. I mean, not personally because he doesn’t know we’re really good friends. We are though, he just won’t acknowledge it in public. Or in all my emails to him. King says “come to a book as you would come to an unexplored land. Come without a map. Explore it, and draw your own map… a book is like a pump. It gives nothing unless first you give to it.”
When I first began to write, I would interpret this as King being a pantser with no plot. Having matured as an author, I’ve come to realize that the unexplored land is the entire world inside of the book. The parts of the land that are explored is the plot, the parts that are presented to the reader. The story would be the tools that are used to explore that land.
I used to abhor plotting my work and relished in the fact that I plotted nothing. Now I understand that plot and story go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. Next week I plan to continue the idea of how story and plot are woven together to form a cohesive story.
At least, that’s what I’m plotting.

Getting Back on the Bike…

There are moments in our lives that we just cannot forget. Typically, my unforgettable moments are the “firsts” of something. The first adult book (Jurassic Park), my first dance (8th grade, horrible experience), and my first feeling of intense dislike for the State of Michigan (when my parents divorced and I had to spend every other weekend in Niles). Another one of my firsts was my first new bike. It was a green speckled Huffy. That was such a significant memory because prior to that, if I wanted to ride a bike I was forced to borrow one my sister’s bicycles. As you can imagine, as a boy, riding around on a Strawberry Shortcake bicycle was not an appealing thing.

This photo was found on a Yahoo image search, but it’s an exact replica to what my sisters had (if memory serves me accurately).

Another memorable time of mine is when I crashed and burned on that bike. Every time. I honestly remember every single accident, every moment of panic just before crashing, every injury and the pain associated with that injury. I also remember that I didn’t just lie on the ground and cry. I got up and got right back on the bike. 

That’s what humans do. We get back up, we persevere, we try again. You might be wondering why I’m talking about memories and bicycles when this should be a writing column. Well, faithful reader, keep calm and read on.

I haven’t written one word in my fourth book since the beginning of March. I was too busy working, then going home and editing a book for my publisher. As some of you know, all of that work amounted to nothing because my laptop was stolen. I had a backup of my fourth book, but not a recent one. Turns out that I lost about 6,000 words give or take a few hundred. In the grand scheme of things, things didn’t turn out that bad. 

I thought to myself that as soon as April hit, I’d get back into the writing grind. I had my backup laptop configured, I finally got Word all situated on it, I had it all figured out. As I’m writing this, it’s the fifth day into the month and I haven’t written a single word. There have been nights where I’ll open the document and just stare at it for a few moments before closing it again. As I do, I make a mental promise to work on it later, the next night, or at a more opportune time.

Every time I look at the document, all I can see is that flickering vertical line at the end of the document. It waits impatiently for me to move it with my words. If there are any writers reading this, then I’m sure you’ll understand what I’m going through.

It isn’t that I don’t know where I’m going in the story. Because I do. However, I can’t get over that loss of progress. It was done. It was written. It was perfect the way it was and it was how I wanted the story written. How can I write anything better?

Ultimately, that flashing vertical line represents my faith in my craft. It represents my wavering belief that I can write something equal to what was there before the theft. 

We all have something we struggle with in our lives. Relationships, addictions, ethics, morality, faith, the list could go on and on. I’ve struggled, and still struggle, with many of those issues. What can I say, I multitask. Currently, I’m struggling with self-doubt. See, self-doubt and I are old enemies. It’s one of those relationships where the foes sit down and drink coffee and play a game of chess. Like the end of the first X-Men film. Only one of us will win the battle, but it won’t be the last time we face off against each other. 

You would think by now I’d know my foe’s tricks and battle strategies. I’d be able to counter his attacks and strike back effectively. You’d think I’d be able to overcome him in the end. But no, I’m still struck by surprise when my enemy makes his opening move. I’m still initially paralyzed by the crippling effects of his attack. I’m too weak to counterattack. 

I’m just not enough. 

I wish I could end this rant on a good note. I wish I could tell you that everything was okay again and that I’ve triumphed over my Self-Doubt. I wish I could tell you that Michigan isn’t as “Pure” as Tim Allen says it is in his commercials.

But I don’t have a magic lamp and those three wishes will still remain that: wishes.

I will make a promise, to you all. I’ll keep trying to get back on that bike. Maybe when I start writing again, that’ll be another lifetime moment I’ll never forget. The first time I truly defeated my self-doubt.

Thank a Journalist Day was March 13

***Before reading, please note that the following rant is entirely a biased article about journalism. The writer of this rant is a journalist after all. At least he claims to be one. Now back to our original Mastering the Craft. Enjoy.***

You have to be crazy to be a journalist. Now, I realize what you’re all thinking: “But Jim, everyone thinks that about their jobs.” And you’d probably be right. Please, just hear me out and take a few minutes to read my irrational reasoning.

In order to understand the mind of a journalist, you have to understand what they do on a day-to-day basis. I could be all fancy with you and say that “we’re the protectors of truth” or that we “keep politicians honest” or even that “we report Fake News.”

While that might be true, here is what I personally think we do:

• We tell the public what happened at a government meeting, school board meetings, an event, something else of public interest.

• We let you know what’s going to happen in the future. Examples of this include the Community Calendar, fundraising opportunities, concerts, hot button issues taking place at a public meeting, and other events of public interest.

• We bring to light issues that might have been kept buried. That’s investigative journalism and you have to wear a fedora and have a Chicago or New York Mobster Era accent when you question individuals.

• We are on our own side. What I mean by that is, when we write an article we are emotionally detached. We do not share our opinions with our readership. Admittedly, this is one of the tougher parts of our job. Some succeed in doing this while others fail. But hey, we’re only human.

Anyone can snap a picture and/or write an article about a government meeting. In today’s age anyone can report on the news through a blog or creating a Facebook Group and calling it “(insert name) News.” It’s easy, but what’s not easy is what you do with that knowledge you gained when you attended that meeting.

“With great power comes great responsibility,” stated the fictional ill-fated Uncle Ben.

If you want a quote from a better source than a comic book character, I’ll use the one I found at http://www.americanpressinstitute.org.

“The journalist places the public good above all else and uses certain methods – the foundation of which is a discipline of verification – to gather and assess what he or she finds,” states the website.

Sometimes people don’t like reading the truth. I know, you’re probably wanting me to reference Jack Nicholson but I refuse to do it. It’s true though, that old phrase, the truth hurts. Sometimes people don’t like to read about what was said during a meeting. I remember one time I used a quote from a clerk-treasurer a few years back. The town had to remove the flower pots in front of the downtown bar because inebriated patrons were using it for things other than horticulture. She called me out on it on one of my last days at that paper. “Why’d you have to quote me on that?” I replied back, “Hey, you were the one that said it.”

Being a journalist is a tough gig. You’re mostly working on your own, on a deadline, and constantly holding back personal bias. Sometimes we witness the aftermath of some of humanity’s worst actions. Fatalities in car accidents, court cases involving some of the worst things imaginable, events in Michigan. Okay, that last one was a personal bias and used for comedic purposes. But you get the point. Most of the time we don’t receive the kudos and thanks for doing the job. Sometimes all we receive is criticism and angry voicemails telling us how poor a job we did.

So yes, we have to be crazy to do what we do.

To be fair, we also get to know the people that make our coverage area great. We get to see the few individuals attempting to make their communities better. We get to cover the fundraising efforts, the not-for-profits trying to provide children the essential items they lack, the prayer breakfasts, and a plethora of other activities and events that balance out the bad.

Sure, you have to be crazy to be a journalist. But, speaking as a journalist, I have enjoyed these past four years of insanity. Here’s hoping there’s more where it came from.

Wednesday, March 13 was “Thank a Journalist Day.” If you didn’t read it in the newspaper you most likely didn’t even know it existed. It was declared and signed by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb. The day was created by students at Ball State University and asked people to participate and state why they believe journalism was important.

In closing, I would ask this: if you are at a meeting/event/sporting event/ribbon cutting/or other various public activity and see someone with a recorder or notepad, go up (after the event, we’re working after all) and shake their hand and say thanks.

Or you could buy the local newspaper. Because, come on, there’s much more in it than Sudoku and Family Circus.