Friday, January 16, 2004

Tectonic Plates are Shifting

Okay, so I've been away for some time. For that I apologize. In coming days I'll try to describe all, or at least some, of the wondrous things that kept me from writing here--the projects completed, half completed or just embarked upon--and which prevented me from communing with y'all. But I've been both humbled and touched by all the email notes (and a few messages delivered in person) asking for a resumption in service. The two best: a plaintive email from an old friend a half dozen states away, who somehow found time even with a new infant recently added to the household, to drop me an email with the subject line reading "I need your words." (that tends to get your attention). I was equally touched to run into a nice fellow I know only slightly, a smart, genial lawyer whom I know only through having once coached his son in hoops, who mentioned being a reader. How'd you find the site, I asked, dumbfounded? He'd read a small notice about Working With Words in Northern Ohio Live way back in May of last year, and had been occasionally checking in ever since.

All grand and oh so humbling. But also a well-timed reminder about what counts in life: staying connected with good people. And sharing important words and ideas that can subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, change lives.

So I'm a bit awed to tell you about three things that happened this week, each connected to the other in certain ways, and yet all of which happened completely independently of the other. And in that way they seemed to speak, at least to me they did, of a kind of cosmic alignment of the stars, testament to the fact that god is good, and that he gives events well-timed nudges.

Early in the week, a longtime institutional voice of Cleveland journalism whose pen has recently been silenced after he found himself without a home in the print universe, allowed me to help set up a blog for him. It stands ready for him to use as a tool to reconnect to his audience, and it will be a splendid thing to behold when it arrives. Stay tuned for that.

By mid-week, a sprawling piece with which I've struggled, on and off, for the better part of the fall season, having finally been wrestled to the ground and finished and sent packing to an editor, was printed in the Free Times. Already, just two days after it first appeared, the reaction has been amazing and gratifying. My favorite result: I heard from Steve Kurdziel, author of that astounding series of pearl-like PD editorial page essays in recent months on the region, its history, economy and its potential. We'll meet soon, and perhaps challenge each other to continue on these themes.

And then the latest mind-blower, coming only yesterday: Plain Dealer editor Doug Clifton, Editor & Publisher's editor of the year, and a stalwart man of the print age if ever there was one, begins his own blog, vowing to use it to better inform readers and engage them on the topic of how newsroom decisons are made. In his first post, he bravely wades into the river: "As a lifelong consumer of the written word displayed on paper, the prospect of talking to readers by way of a 'blog' is a little unnerving," he writes. "I've decided to tip toe into these electronic waters because I recognize that to ignore change is to be consumed by it."


So there you have it: just one day after I publish a piece which ventures the hope that even the traditionally rigid PD might soon be part of a smarter media landscape, Clifton instantly confirms that it's more reality than hope. Of course there's much left to be done on that front. And yet, his powerfully worded rationale for beginning to blog and venturing into uncharted territory tells me that the PD's evolution is reaching a stage more like that of at least a mini-revolution. Speaking as both reader and media critic, I say thanks for taking the plunge, Doug. And a giant welcome to the conversation, or at least this portion of it...


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