The former managing editor of the Idaho Press Tribune is a walking embodiment of journalism's best practices.
1. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truthWith media outlets downsizing like crazy; amidst the growing influence of large corporations in the dissemination of information; and with so many TV comedians disguised as pundits and others blurring the lines between entertainment and news (with many people considering such messages to be "news") -- there is a discussion about whether journalism will even exist in a few years.
2. Its first loyalty is to citizens
3. Its essence is a discipline of verification
4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover
5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power
6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise
7. It must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant
8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional
9. Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience
-Pew Research Journalism Project, "Principles of Journalism"
Fortunately, the consensus has been that news organizations will always exist. They will just have a radically different form than the model most people have gotten used to -- a model, in its basic framework -- which has endured for about the last 100 years.
And in this age when the Almighty Dollar and "What's In It For Me?" seem to be the standard by which most news decisions are made, there is a woman who has risen as a shining light of the Principles of Journalism mentioned above.
I first met Vickie Holbrook in 2008 when I walked in to the Idaho Press Tribune office to inquire about doing some writing for the paper. A selection from the farewell column, written by the paper's editorial board, highlights why she has been so special to so many:
What’s unusual about her departure is the amount of time she has served the Press-Tribune. She has been an employee of this newspaper for 34 years, the last 17 as managing editor. That might not seem all that remarkable in some other professions, but in this one, it’s an eon.Holbrook is now the Public Information Officer for the City of Nampa, Idaho's second largest municipality, after Boise. To the above kudos, add the fact that women, minorities and other groups are badly underrepresented in key decision-making positions in the state of Idaho. She set a great example for others to follow. Further, I constantly hear from and read about people who Holbrook mentored. She gave many people their start in the business. Included are scores of young people, women, and others outside of the traditional Idaho circles of power. Dozens of these professionals are well established writers and journalists today.
To put it in perspective, the average career in the newspaper business is five years — not five years at one newspaper, but five years total in the industry. It’s a very demanding line of work that often requires people to work long, unusual hours under tight deadline pressure for very modest wages. There are many college graduates who are attracted to the work, but after doing it for a few years determine that the daily rigors were more than they had bargained for. Practically speaking, 34 years at the same newspaper is an eternity.
In that time, Vickie has gotten to know Canyon County as well as anyone who lives here. When it comes to knowledge of the key players and our area’s history, she is a walking gold mine of information. It will be a tremendous loss for us, but the good news is that she has offered to serve as a consultant of sorts after her departure.
In her unique tenure, Holbrook ran and established the Press Tribune into a vital and influential medium for local, state and national news. It is an open and accessible source for dialogue, and a great tool for community service. She accomplished this without any perceivable bias. For example, Canyon County is overwhelmingly conservative and Republican. However, in my six years of reading the paper every day: no elected official, initiative, or proposal ever received a "free pass' in the outlet's pages.
All parties were subject to the same scrutiny and when they were wrong, Holbrook thoroughly called them out. From my interactions with Holbrook, I could see that she was free of vendettas, but tough, like a managing editor is supposed to be.
Joseph Pulitzer said:
Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.
In Idaho, we are fortunate to have such light still among us, in the form of Vickie Holbrook.
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