Sunday, October 11, 2020

Reporting for the future

I recently marked my first anniversary at the Explorer.

One of the interesting things about working for a magazine is thinking about how to tell stories that will stick around and still be news for a while. Since the magazine comes out once every two months, the stories in it ought to last at least as long as the time between issues.

A lot of journalism gets a bad rap as “clickbait” and transitory. This isn’t a new complaint — Schopenhauer compared journalists to barking dogs — nor is it particularly accurate, since most people I know are trying to work on something they can stand back and admire at the end of their careers. But it’s certainly true that much of what gets our attention, especially these days, is something that changes from one day to the next, or from one hour or one minute to the next.

But you’re reading the Explorer and I’ve been thinking my whole career on a slightly different time scale than many of my colleagues. My first job was at an afternoon paper. “Afternoon” doesn’t quite do the situation justice and is a generous term, since the deadlines weren’t in the afternoon but rather mid-morning.

That meant I had to do one of three things: Find a big story before 9 a.m. that very day, which was tough. Lock down a big enough story from the day before that would be entirely overlooked by TV and a competing morning newspaper, which was hard. Or, come up with a fresh way to tell a story again, maybe with more detail, insight or verve — a last resort.

These were all good challenges to face early.

Here at the Explorer, especially for the magazine, I have to be even more selective, which is perhaps fitting since we cover a park that is to be “forever” wilderness.

In recent weeks, I’ve been taking a hard look at how rivers have been altered by dams over the past century or more and how those alterations have affected the life of species that evolved millennia before that.


Treadwell Mills Dam near Plattsburgh. Photo by Ry Rivard

The news, a word I’ve been tempted to put in quotes, is that we don’t always see or understand those changes, and we certainly cannot undo them overnight, even if we wanted to.

Perhaps that’s not news in the Twitter sense of it, but there are things a person can start thinking about now that can change how we think about things that seem to have no beginning or end. Sometimes it’s news that the way things are isn’t the way they’ve always been.

Editor’s note: This post first appeared in Ry’s weekly “Water Line” email newsletter. Click here to sign up.

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2 Responses

  1. M.P. Heller says:

    Hey Ry. (Ryan?)

    You have been a great addition to the dialog here. I truly appreciate your views, even when I don’t always agree 100 percent with them. Its this type of diversity of opinion and back and forth with discussions that ultimately reaches the best results in most cases.

    Unfortunately, as you know too well, we have recently reached some controversial topics in our public discourse, and all too often these discussions deteriorate quickly into ad homininim attacks and castigation of certain groups.

    I truly appreciate your attempt to straddle political and social lines while trying to remain objective on the topics as an author. Please continue to do so. Double down on the efforts when you feel challenged by a thorny topic and/or belligerent respondants. We are all better served when someone goes the extra mile to suss out the truth of a matter, even when we don’t all like the results.

    Thank you for your commitment. I look forward to reading another of your articles soon.

  2. Bill Ott says:

    Hi Ry,

    Cranberry Lake was dammed up about 150 years ago. Does that make the resulting environmental changes temporary, permanent, or somewhere in between?

    Bill Ott
    Lakewood, OH

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