Water dripping on stone

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By Caitlin Kelly

I’ve always — imagine! — been impatient.

Have always hoped, somehow, my journalism would make a difference to the world, to its readers, maybe even to voters or policy-makers.

In my early 20s, I tackled a grim and difficult and important story, the testing of cosmetics and other products on animals. I won’t detail what I saw, but I never forgot it, and to see that as a young person is to be changed. I wrote it for a brave editor, the late and much missed Jane Gale Hughes, whose Canadian national magazine — as small in size and apparently unsubstantial as a TV Guide — was called Homemakers.

Its name was misleading, suggesting anodyne chitchat.

Quite the opposite!

Jane, extremely rare for any editor who hopes to keep their job, had to fight the advertising department because, of course, the advertisers of the products being tested would object and pull their lucrative ads.

The ads whose revenue paid her salary and my freelance work for her.

She ran my story anyway and I’m really proud of it and grateful for her belief in me as a younger journalist to produce it.

This tension between money and truth-telling never goes away.

In 2005-6, when I was a reporter for the New York Daily News, then the nation’s sixth-largest paper, I did a huge investigation of the cruise ship industry.

What I learned persuaded me to never take a cruise.

Of course, the editor refused to run my stories — for fear of losing their ad dollars. They finally ran one-half of my work.

 

Journalism matters!

 

Every story that digs deeply.

Every press conference — pure theater! — during which smart journalists ask challenging, tough questions, even in the face of sneers, insults, pompous political lectures and hostility.

It all adds up.

It must.

Jose and I are soon at the tail end of long and challenging and satisfying careers in journalism. We remain deeply passionate about the need for intelligent, analytical, critical reporting on  every aspect of life.

But both of us were cautioned — long ago — to remember that even a lifetime of our committed excellence, even for the largest and most influential outlets, and all the work of all our talented colleagues, is the equivalent of water drops on stone.

One at a time.

Each story — each image — only a drop.

How can it matter?

Drop after drop — repeated over and over and over and over — as we and others continue the work, and stone wears away.

 

7 thoughts on “Water dripping on stone

  1. OMG, Jane Gale Hughes! She lived in Cabbagetown before meeting an Englishman, marrying him (at a late age) and retiring to England. She was often at my parents’ house and I knew her daughter. My mother was fashion and beauty editor of Homemakers for a few years. Small world, huh? When did she pass away, do you know?

  2. When my dad was growing up in the Philippines, he worked at his dad’s grocery store. They received goods from the US, often wrapped with newspapers. He read those and remembered the supplier was based in San Francisco. When he attended school, his American teacher lent him copies of the New York Times to read. He continued reading that throughout his adult life. He subscribed the Sunday New York Times and even though he wasn’t making a lot of money, that gave him so much pleasure to read and to stay informed.

    I still subscribe to 2 newspapers. I can’t imagine life without them and magazines. It’s just so sad to see the industry decimated.

  3. it is so interesting to to put it all in perspective, looking back. all of the work, the worry, the highs, the lows, the joys, the grief, all of it brings us to the same end. it is important to believe that our work has had an impact, and i believe it does, as your quote at the end states.

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