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Jack Zaleski, Published January 11 2014

Zaleski: Swimming in newsroom’s talent pool

When I began my work as editorial page editor of The Forum, I was the youngest editor in the newsroom. Today I am the oldest. That suggests either I love my job or I’ve been in a rut for a long time.

It’s the former. The newsroom of a successful and vibrant daily newspaper like The Forum is a marvelous place. Serious journalism attracts people with innate curiosity, unique skills and a heady determination to get to the truth of things – to get the story and get it right. Those qualities are essential to a motivated professional news team of editors, reporters, designers, and photographers. We have all that and more.

So when a tech-savvy friend asked why I don’t work from home via computer, he may as well have been speaking an obscure foreign language. The value of face-to-face daily interaction with journalists in the newsroom is one of the joys of the job. For the most part, they are fascinating individuals who bring to their craft a marvelous variety of personalities, experiences and outlooks on life. They range in age from mid-20s to mid-60s. Differences in the way they see the world, and what they think they know, play out every day, especially in a generational context.

For me as a member of the boomer generation, the youngish outlook can cause eye-rolling disbelief. They seem to know more about Taylor Swift than Jonathan Swift; more about the Kardashians than the Kennedys; more about Dunkin’ Donuts than Arne Duncan (U.S. secretary of education); more about Duck Dynasty than duck-and-cover (from the nuclear scare era); more about “American Idol” than American history.

But maybe all that is the snooty simmer of a faux-grumpy curmudgeon. And sometimes it’s gratifying to feel like the smartest person in the room, even if I’m not.

But, most importantly, all views and biases have a place in our editors’ news huddle every morning, when we develop content for the next day’s newspaper, analyze online traffic, and review/critique the morning edition. It’s often a rollicking, free-wheeling hour where candor, outrage, analysis, self-criticism and less-than-politically correct commentary animate the agenda. It’s not only stimulating fun, it’s also extraordinarily productive.

Work from home via computer? Not a chance. Alone in a dark room with the hypnotizing mechanical glow of an impersonal screen? No way. Therein lies the path to techie nerdism. I’m too old for that.

For a veteran journalist, there is nothing better than jumping into the deep end of the newsroom talent pool every day. Now that’s a good swim.

Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521.