A few years ago, my supervisor called to tell me that some highly placed person in society had commended some things being done in the section I was working.
At the time, I was heading the features desk, dealing with what many people in the journalism world call “soft” stories. I am still not sure why they call them that.
I was so excited that I ended up “preaching” to my supervisor the importance of our section and even quoted Robin Williams as I spoke. Well, it was not Williams’ quote per se. It was what he said in the movie Dead Poet’s Society, and since it is the script writers who come up with the lines, I suppose it was that script writer’s quote.
Luckily for me, my supervisor told me to breathe and calm down before getting overwhelmed. I did, and he was graceful enough not to get ticked off and instead thank me for the work, while letting me know we should continue to do better. He was right. Still is.
The reason that call made my day, and why other such comments perk me up is because I see more and more, people realising how important it is to get information, not only about how their MPs are dodging committee meetings but also why they should go for all four antenatal visits recommended by health care givers, how they should raise their children not to be bullies, and why it is important to work at improving their marriage.
For a long time, stories about society, health (practical helpful information), education and entertainment were looked at as the fourth important section of the paper, after news, sport and business.
Editors of this section were not taken so seriously and it took tough and determined ones, like Loy Nabeta (a former features editor at this paper) to fight hard to get more than one page for the stories.
It took some good years for magazines on women, children, and lifestyle to start appearing in the newspapers.
And even when they did, they were placed quite far back into the paper, after the “more important” stories.
But things are looking better. There is more space to cover these important topics and lots of feedback from the readers.
Of course more needs to be done, for us not to get trivial and frivolous.
Readers might ask for salacious material but papers worth their name ought not to fall for that and should instead give them what they need, packaged in a friendly and attractive way, from the look of the paper to the content.
Even these stories, contrary to what some of the journalists think, need to be in-depth, investigative and importantly, show the reader why they need to pay attention to the topics.
So when Williams the famous actor died, due to suicide, I was truly saddened.
He was a great actor who made us laugh and see the bright side of life. Still, I hold onto that quote he said in the movie:
“And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life.
But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”