Monday, June 23, 2008

What's your legacy?

I never would have guessed I'd get a TV News topic from my priest yesterday, and I don't as a rule get into religion on this forum, but he raised an interesting question at the end of his sermon. He touched on the fact that he'd watched many of the Tim Russert tributes, and asked us all to think about what would be said when we're gone. "What will be your legacy?" Short and sweet, but it sure made people think.

I'd actually been considering that last week, thinking it would be wonderful if people lined up to say nice things at a funeral. Of course, there's only one way to insure that will happen.

While doing good deeds and being a nice person are all well and good, this is a business in which "paying it forward" might outweigh other acts of kindness. And sometimes this is not something that is readily apparent to us in the early part of our careers. Or easy to do when there is competition in your own newsroom. Why should you bother to help someone who is your direct competition for that open anchor job? Why give away those reporter's tricks that have made you something special? And if you're a manager, why should you help that mediocre anchor get better when it is easier to just hire someone else?

Because, in addition to the fact that you're part of a news team, it's the right thing to do. And this is a very, very small business.

Yes, there are people who are not very nice in this business. Those who will trample the competition and eat their young to get ahead. But offering a helping hand, or paying it forward, is just like Karma.

If you've been around this business for awhile, think back to when you first started. Surely someone was kind and patient in showing you the ropes. Doesn't it make sense to do the same for the rookie in your newsroom?

Or, if you're a rookie reporter, why not offer guidance to that summer intern everyone is ignoring?

At some point in this career, you'll need help, a favor, a port in a storm. The more good you do now, the more good Karma you'll have in the bank when you need it. That intern you help might be a network anchor in ten years, and take you along for the ride. The kid reporter you mentor might be in a position to help someday when you find yourself out of a job.

We all have something to pay forward. If you want a legacy like Tim Russert, time to start making deposits in the bank of good deeds.

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