The portfolio and writerspace for Al Gentile


I just got off the phone with Globe Spotlight reporter Sacha Pfeiffer. The voice I’ve heard on radio for WBUR’s All Things Considered was coming through the speakers on my phone.

I had the chance to interview Pfeiffer for a talk she is giving in Lexington, the town I cover. She is speaking, among other things, about the role of journalism in establishing an informed citizenry, and what quality objective reporting means in fostering a reactive civil society.

What was really incredible was the questions she asked me. We talked about the field of journalism, the perils, and the hopes for an industry which is facing shrinking job prospects, a lack of funding, and increasing competition with nefarious and shoddy click-bait and political divisiveness.

Speaking on the difficulties I face as a one-man show covering an entire town, it was vindicating in a way to hear from someone I would consider a hero in my field speaking about the same trials facing larger media outlets such as The Boston Globe.

It was also inspiring to hear very similar sentiments of news consumers coming from Pfeiffer, who has worked in the industry in many different capacities and has a much wider perspective of what is going on.

I’ve had the opportunity to speak with other big-name players in the field, including Eileen McNamara from The Globe, Walter “Robby” Robinson of the Spotlight team, and others.

Working in a field which is continually shrinking from all sides can be worrisome. It can sometimes feel like the whole world is working against you when the existence of your job (or at least how you identify with it) is under threat. Yet, though it can be easy to be put down, there are ways I have been able to keep my head up among it all.

Talk to your idols

Reach out to these people, in whatever way possible, to get their perspective on what is going on in the world you share. In many cases, you both are sure to find common ground, and the subject of your questions most likely has much to say about what is your current reality. In my case, it’s been inspiring and motivating to speak with people whose positions I in many ways covet.

These conversations will also be grounding. I feel like some of the weaknesses I feel are both validated and proven to be a symptom of my short time in journalism. In all, I feel better about everything right now.

Study your field

It isn’t enough to be working in what you do. There are people all over the world who study what you do. I recently found this study by Neiman Lab about local journalism and the changing media industry. It was insightful, and made me reflect on my place in the news world.

This kind of reflection is valuable. It can help with not being blindsided among industry changes, which often are hard to catch when you are in the thick of it. That awareness of the forces working around, within, or against your field can help you make more informed decisions about how sustainable your position is, or what moves you should make.

That’s all I have for now. Just still reeling from all this.

What experiences have you had speaking to your hero? Leave a comment below!


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