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Connecticut Post editor discusses future of print journalism field
Jim Smith is a man of the written word. That’s why he was a little bit nervous about speaking to a group of students on Monday night in Mancheski about journalism, the future of newspapers, and his new position as Editor-in-Chief of the Connecticut Post, the third largest newspaper in Connecticut.
“I like to think that New England is just filled with creative men and women interested in the tough profession of journalism,” Smith said to the 15 students and three faculty that were in attendance.
Smith, who has spent 36 years in the journalism field worked at nine other newspapers including spending nearly 18 years each at the Hartford Courant and The Meriden Record-Journal, before being appointed at the Post this past August.
Smith said that for as long as it has been around journalism has always been under assault, adding that the Bush administration has been the most secretive and hostile to the press since Nixon.
“The free press is fundamental to democracy,” Smith said. “We need to defend what we do better and get the message out that writing is a noble art.”
He talked about the importance of reading anything that contains good writing, even if the subject matter is against someone’s beliefs. He said that reading a lot strengthens a journalists writing and helps develop style. His favorite book is Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms.
“We tell stories. That’s what newspapers do,” Smith said. “That’s what we do every day. One word after another, one sentence after another, we try to pull the reader through the story.
He also stressed the importance of print journalism as a historical record.
“We write the first draft of history,” Smith said. “We’re writing for the ages.”
Smith gave the students some tips on improving their writing and journalism skills. He told them to love what they cover and remember to write for the general public not for the people being covered.
“Be curious. You have to want to find stuff out, and be tenacious because you will face adversity in getting information every day,” Smith said.
After speaking for about thirty minutes, the session was opened up for questions. One student asked whether or not newspapers will be around in the future.
“There will always be journalism,” Smith said. “Maybe newspapers will be totally on the internet, but they will still be around.”
He told an anecdote to explain his confidence in the future of newspapers.
“My five-year-old nephew already knows how to use the computer, clicking on things, and he can type his name out T-Y-L-E-R. And even though we all like looking at it on the screen, he always wants to print it out because he wants to feel it. I think it’s the same way with newspapers.”