Journalism, Heft, and Getting It Right

Bruce Maples (bruceinlouisville@gmail.com)
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Just a quick note about a word I keep using, and some reflections on ProgLou a few weeks after the relaunch.

Heft. It’s a word I’ve used a number of times to describe part of my vision for the site. I think it speaks for itself, but in case it doesn’t, let me take a few sentences to explain.

If a site has “heft,” to me, it means that it is solid. It is built on a strong foundation, it has a solid reputation, and what it says matters, makes a difference. A site with heft is seen as a serious site, one that you should listen to. To have heft means that people take your phone calls and talk honestly with you, because they know you will be honest and fair in return.

What’s the opposite of heft? A string of words and phrases come immediately to mind: click bait, fly-by-night, rumor mill, flighty, shallow. Sites like these are all over the inter-tubes. They are easy to build, and just as easy to forget or ignore.

We don’t want to be that. We want Progress Louisville to be a site, and a brand, with heft. That’s our goal, and our vision. Let’s see if we can build that.

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And speaking of solid reputation: one of the keys to that is getting things right. When you publish facts, make sure they are correct. Make sure you understand both sides, even though you may be on only one side of the argument. Do the background work, do the research, check your sources. Journalism plus advocacy can be a powerful force.

Having now published four pieces plus one cartoon, and working on about three more pieces, I am struck by how much time this is actually taking. The research, the phone calls, the emails, the vetting of the research, the writing, the editing, the polishing — it all takes much, much longer than I think any of us planned.

Straight-up opinion pieces are fairly easy to write. You read something that you want to comment on, so you write a piece to comment on it. I’ve done it, myself, for years and years. It can be fun, it can be engaging if the person is a good writer, it can even make a difference if the subject needs to be called out. But usually, it just adds to the noise.

Doing the pieces that we’ve done so far, and that we are working on, takes the process to another level. I hope, in the end, that this approach both makes the site have the “heft” I was speaking of, AND that is makes the site even more valuable as a resource for advocacy and policy work.

Our goal continues to be to publish three times a week, at a minimum. I hope you will take the time to read, and even more, to comment. Let our writers know you appreciate their work. It makes the time, and the effort to get it right, worth it.

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