What Journalists Can Learn From God.

via Flickr's '..Catherine..'
via Flickr's ..catherine..

Tomorrow is the first night of Rosh Hashanah, and for the second time in the last four years, I’m headed to services in a city not renowned for its Jewish population. (My previous experience in Columbia, Mo., was especially enlightening.)

But with another year upon us — we Jews are up to year 5770 — I wanted write about someone whose teachings have a few lessons that journalists might want to take note of.

I’m talking, of course, about God.

To succeed in a digital age, I believe that journalists need to create and distribute original content. But when it comes to original content, nobody’s been more prolific as a creator than God. (N.B.: the platypus.) God’s gone multi-platform. (Anybody else operating in both the heavens and the Earth?) And talk about keeping readers entertained: have you read the Passover story recently? As far as storytelling is concerned, you won’t find more epic game-changers than the plagues or the parting of the Red Sea.

So with a L’Shana Tova in mind, this New Year’s installment of “What Journalists Can Learn From…’ is all about The Man Upstairs.

1. Engage Your Readers. If God has time to talk one-on-one with some of the chosen people, I know journalists can make time to talk to readers. Via chats or Twitter, or in the comments, good journalists engage readers in a conversation.

2. Be Upfront With What It Is You Stand For. I believe that news organizations should come out with statements of purpose, explaining what is it they do and how it is they do it. Consider these each news outlet’s basic commandments. (1) Note an older statement from a paper like the San Francisco Chronicle. Check out how a 21st century outlet like Politico states their purpose. Both are examples of the founding principles upon which journalists have announced they’ll work. They set the tone for readers, keep news organizations transparent and, most importantly, allow the public to understand and trust the stories being told.

3. Sometimes, Rest is a Good Thing. We work in a 24-hour news cycle. But oftentimes, ‘news of the day’ isn’t what journalists excel at. Finding stories, analyzing complex issues and serving the public good is. Sometimes, we need to pause to remember that. And maybe we should do it more than every seven days.

  1. I’m not talking about stuff like Bloomberg’s Thou Shalt Not Tweet policy, though that is a pretty biblical-style example of the Almighty Boss trying to set policy instead of helping to shape it.