Journalism Matters

Perhaps the biggest news in our area this week has been a pretty massive layoff at the The Dallas Morning News.

For all sorts of reasons, I’ve always felt a special kinship with journalists. I studied to be one (Bachelors in Journalism from UT Austin), and over the years I’ve had the good fortune to be interviewed by a good many fine reporters; including some of those who were unceremoniously fired this week.

My biggest concern is for the *people* let go. But along with this is a concern for the ongoing contraction and consolidation of the media. For all of my adult life, I’ve watched journalist friends get laid off. I’d guess that majority of those I knew in J-school are no longer beat reporters of any kind, anywhere…and some not even doing any form of what we might call “content creation” generally.

For me, this all means a loss of accountability of local government, which is troubling.

I found it ironic that almost while this news was breaking, the DNM (Robert Wilonsky) published a detailed account of significant waste and fraud in the convention and visitors bureau.

The role of the press is more important than ever to the health of our democracy. We may differ with the editorial views of the owners and publishers. (I certainly have with the DMN. And, frankly, the DMN has published a few truly head scratching endorsements in recent years.…)

But no matter how you feel about the *institution,* I hope you can feel compassion and respect for the *reporters.*

And I can’t help but feel these layoffs are a part of a greater societal problem today with the internet and “free” content.

As with music and musicians, journalists should be paid for their work, and news organizations must have a sustainable financial path to survive. Yes, it’s on them to create lean organizations that can be flexible and adapt to new media.

But it’s also on US to sustain those organizations with our dollars.

The answer can’t be “free.” But, we seem to want our news free, just like we want our music free.

But free is not sustainable.

It takes money to launch large scale investigations that hold government accountable. For example, the New York Times published a stunningly detailed accounting of the Trump family finances a few months back. (Have you read it? You should…)

There’s NO WAY that an independent journalist with a laptop and blog could have written that report. It took years of research by a team, and literally a room filled with documents dedicated to the task.

More and more, it seems to me, that accountability function of journalism is in jeopardy. And that very much concerns me.

So, my prayer is for all these journalists and their families not any specific paper or corporation. I hope they land on their feet soon.

And my broader concern is for our democracy, that we value journalism with our dollars, so that good quality journalism can continue during this crucial time for our nation.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He is Senior Pastor of The Woods United Methodist Church in Grand Prairie, Texas. For seventeen years, he was pastor at Northaven UMC in Dallas, Texas. Eric is an avid blogger and published author. Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy.

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