I’d love to know how to solve any problem instantly. Who wouldn’t?
So when Kiplinger’s profiled me in its latest issue under the headline How to Make a Complaint and Get Results I almost choked. Talk about overpromising!
They might as well have said, “How To Solve Any Problem Instantly.”
Solving any problem instantly? It’s not that easy
As a journalist, I often struggle with my desire to oversimplify a problem — and a solution. I think Kiplinger’s did a nice job of qualifying its headline promise later in the story. Which is to say, complaining can yield results. But not always.
Advocacy isn’t easy, either. I’ve always found myself at odds with colleagues in journalism who say you can’t be an advocate and a journalist at the same time. As if, somehow, there’s a Church of Journalism to which I should belong.
I don’t believe that, and I say as much in my disclosures. In my view, being a journalist means you must also be an advocate. I think you can’t do one without the other.
But we live in strange times. Many media organizations expect you to choose one over the other and to submit professionally-researched, publication-ready stories at below minimum wage. That pushes the professionals out of the field and into more lucrative journalism littered with undisclosed affiliate links and advertorial content. I’m not going to let that happen to me.
How about solving just this one problem?
I’ve always had my feet in two worlds: journalism and advocacy.
What if I had to choose one over the other? I think you know which way I’ll go. Journalism is just a profession. But helping you, my friends and readers, is my passion. I will always be with you, no matter what.
If someone forced me to make a choice, it would be easy — I would double down on the advocacy and the nonprofit organization that I started many years ago. And I would never look back.
But no one has done that yet. Until then, I will use my writing and media appearances to further your causes without fear or favor.
I wish these two world were not always in conflict, but they seem to be. I can’t solve the world’s problems, but I’d be happy if someone could help me solve just this one.
Don’t believe everything you read
Clickbait headlines like, “How to solve any problem instantly” inevitably lead to disappointment — for which, but the way, I sincerely apologize — and you know better than to believe them. If something looks too good to be true, then it almost certainly is. But beware, too, of those who would want to oversimplify a complicated issue. In case after case, I find that the details and circumstances matter.
Journalists love to make sweeping generalizations — you’re either in Group A or Group B. You’re either with us or against us. Red or blue. But the world is so much more complicated than that.
I can’t solve all the world’s problems in a single story. But I can solve one problem per story. Maybe that’s a good start.
Here are this week’s stories
- Free stays, new friends: What’s not to love about home exchanges? (USA Today)
- Are you allowed to take pictures on planes? Yes and no. (Washington Post)
- Why can’t JustFly.com just fix the ticket to Australia? (Travel Troubleshooter via Philadelphia Inquirer)
- Have a backup plan if your itinerary melts away (Away is Home via USA Today)
- Disaster repair scams target the most vulnerable. Here’s how to avoid them (Medium)
See you next week!