Journalism in the busiest times

If you appear to always be busy, and are, you avoid too much scrutiny. | Getty Images

I have taken many classes in journalism over my 35 or so years in the business, and been given plenty of advice from other, often older-than-me farmers. A few bits have remained forever with me.

“Look busy, Jesus is coming,” I was told at the Poynter Institute in Florida.

Just what did that investigative reporter from a big California daily mean when he said that?

He was describing the regular behaviour of successful reporters looking to get more time to report on things they liked or else being singled out to quickly turn out copy about the latest car and bus collision or water main break.

If you appear to always be busy, and are, you avoid too much scrutiny.

I have always looked busy when working as a reporter or at anything else. That was also good advice from a neighbour at the farm, Jon Thompson.

“It’s good to see you working hard. You need to be because it takes so darned little to keep you busy,” he has told me many times.

I have felt as busy these days as I have at any time in my career. Only last week did I realize why.

There was that sudden federal election that we anticipated for four months.

There were the federal-provincial spats about risk management. I know for some that is about as exciting as watching the paint peel off the barn on a hot day in the summer, but for me, it’s a thing.

Then, there is COVID-19, the ever-evolving news story. As reporters, we have all the same fears and troubles as anyone else, but we have to set these aside while we report on the causes.

The drought was even slower than a flood when it comes to reporting, but with all its arms and legs as a news story, like a flood, it is huge.

Supply chains collapsing as a result of COVID-19 have been another big piece of news that seems to need addressing almost every day.

And finally there’s the commodity boom that we began suggesting was a story nearly a year ago.

The great thing about staying busy with a story like that is that you can be wrong about it for a while, but eventually it will happen and folks will think you are prescient.

In reality, you were just keeping busy.

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