Baking and breaking bread in the ‘War on Media’

It’s a silly mash-up, but one driven by serious impulses.

As a journalist by profession and vocation, I listen with dismay to how some demonize the monolithic ‘media’ with a carelessness that does a disservice to valid perspectives and gripes.

I’ve written before that journalists are servants of the people at our core, and listening, responding to, and engaging with the community is vital even if it sometimes takes great effort.

As an amateur bread baker, I like creating and providing food for others to enjoy. It can be a social act, both the baking process and the eating that follows. After college, I worked in a food co-op bakery to pay for gas in between reporting gigs — you could say the two things were entwined from the start.

[Read more of my thoughts in my book Kneading Journalism]

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the craft of journalism, both because it’s what I do and it’s in what I’ve been trained, but also because the acts of information collection and dissemination are so important to how our society functions…or not.

So The Baking Journalist project is my attempt to combine two things I enjoy.

Before we can break bread and really discuss journalism and how we want to be informed…we need to bake the bread.

Flour, water, terminology

I provide a clear recipe to each loaf of bread I bake, just as I try to provide a logical walk through whatever topic I’m addressing.

The first episode focused on the basics: I baked a loaf of Salted French, a staple of my bread arsenal. And I offered some general ideas about journalism, and what I mean when talking about it.

There is a lot of terminology when some talk about journalism, even though the words aren’t truly synonymous.

Definitions and attitudes shift depending on your viewpoint.

Media, press, news, journalism, pundit, hack — some people use these terms interchangeably.

But there are vast differences in what they can mean depending on the situation and perspective.

Traditional journalism in my view is a craft and a particular set of skills which are used, in theory, for the public good — have an eye on government, figure things out, explain and identify trends, etc, but always in service to the people.

Journalism reflects the victories and brutal defeats of our communities, though the packaging can vary.

Thumbnail from episode 2 of The Baking Journalist.

Among a journalist’s particular skills would be the ability to research, write, interview, contextualize and analyze information, and to listen.

When I say journalism is more akin to my vocation, it’s because I can’t turn it off.

I think about information a certain way, I ask questions a certain way, I also guard my personal opinions a certain way, because that’s how I’ve been trained and developed.

If I leave daily news one day to open my own boulangerie, I believe a lot of how I read, research, and interpret information will still be influenced by my vocation as a journalist.

Not every journalist is like this, of course, it’s just my view.

But some are.

The degree to which a journalist or outlet follows the general norms and ethics of journalism (they exist, honest!), or cares, can vary wildly.

Taste test

The audience, you and me, needs to encourage what we like, and discourage what we don’t in journalism.

We need to be willing to talk through topics, styles, and definitions with the goal of connecting and moving toward greater clarity.

We shouldn’t only talk to tear down.

So I’m baking bread, and trying to offer some coherent thoughts on a profession that has meant so much to me, which will maybe help us in that process.

Whether you stay for those thoughts, or just a recipe: welcome.

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