Specifically, mine, but many are applicable to other journalists as well.
1. Think broader, read deeper. Books in my in-pile include …
The Crusades: A Short History. Not that short, actually.
Bowling Alone. A study of Americans’ retreat from public life into their cozy homes, doing less in public groups.
The Unfinished Presidency. Douglas Brinkley’s study of the remarkable post-presidency life of Jimmy Carter.
Public Intellectuals: A Study in Decline. I remember starting this and thinking the definition of “intellectuals” was a little too narrow. This might just be a complaint from the author that he’s never booked on TV talk shows because their attention spans are too short. Valid complaint, but not necessarily the right guy to make it.
Big Game, Small World. Alexander Wolff loves basketball in all its forms, and while I wouldn’t agree that it’s on the verge of surpassing soccer globally, I’d like to see what he found in checking out the rest of the world’s skills.
2. Don’t complain. Reinvent. For most journalists, this means ignoring sinkholes of insight like Gannett Blog (begging the question “These people were employed as journalists?”) and figuring out how to move forward in a difficult economy. For me, it also means getting in shape. I’m also planning to work on my writing this year. (I’ve never been one of those “find your voice and stick with it” people, especially not in this day and age.)
3. Get out of the rut. Journalists tend to get tunnel vision. Don’t we all? This is a good perennial. Go see something you don’t usually see.
4. Think about charity. For journalists, this means thinking beyond government when it comes to solving problems. NGOs rarely get much mention, though they work they do should often give us reasons to remember that the atrocities and misery of the world are exceptions, not rules. (Granted, there’s also a watchdog role to play in covering charities.) For me, it means remembering to support my organizations:
Schools: Athens Academy, Duke
Health concerns: Alzheimers Association, MS Foundation, Leukemia and Lymphona Society, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, Humane Society of Fairfax County
Relief groups: Red Cross, Episcopal Rescue and Development
Public life: WETA, Rails to Trails Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation
Local care: Capital Area Food Bank, Catholic Charities, Vienna Volunteer Fire Department
The gamut: Carter Center
5. Don’t waste time with pointless conflict. Equally applicable to my Web-browsing habits and journalists’ news judgment. Particularly on cable, where the easiest way to fill time is to get a couple of people to yell at each other. Sometimes, that’s utterly contrived — I had a fun conversation with Frank Shamrock about his appearance on Outside the Lines, in which he suddenly found himself being asked to defend the sport of mixed martial arts in light of the film clips of 7-year-olds wailing on each other in the presence of inattentive coaches and officials. (As opposed to earlier times, when 7-year-olds wailed on each other in the presence of inattentive parents and teachers.)
6. Enjoy every sandwich. Zevon lives.