Ken Founain

I've been thinking a lot about journalism lately.

Truth be told, I've been thinking about journalism in one way or another for most of my life, since the idea of going into the field first struck me while I was in middle school. But after returning to mainstream community journalism not quite two months ago, it's been a lot more at the forefront of my mind.

I first began reading the newspaper seriously sometime around seventh grade. There was a particular columnist I liked a lot at the old Houston Post. As it happened, one of my teachers that year was going to be the teacher of my school's first newspaper class the next year, and encouraged me to sign up. I got my first bylines, including my first column, in that very first paper.

I went on to take a somewhat meandering path toward a newspaper carer, but finally got my start in community newspapers. But before last November, I had been doing other things in communications and had not been doing full-time mainstream journalism.That changed rather abruptly when I was offered and accepted the role of Managing Editor (and lead reporter) of the Fort Bend Star.

I don't mind telling you, it's been challenging. I'm having to flex some old reporting muscles I hadn't used in a while, while also keeping up with the demands of a fairly constant schedule (the paper publishes weekly, but our online presence is daily. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter!). I'm also learning some new skills that go with the ever-changing media landscape. I'm also learning fairly new territory in covering the highly diverse and dynamic Fort Bend County.

As I told a coupe of colleagues in an online meeting last week, I've been here just about a month-and-a-half, but it feels a lot longer.

It's those changes in the media that have been foremost in my mind. Even small community newspapers like the Fort Bend Star have to stay abreast of ways of attracting and growing audiences while staying true to the essential mission of journalism - being a reliable source of information for the community, however large or small that community might be.

By coincidence, just before Christmas, I was at the bookstore at First Colony Mall and came across a book titled The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect. It was exactly the book I didn't know I was looking for, and I quickly snapped up the only copy on the shelf of the Current Affairs section.

Written by highly esteemed former journalists Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel and first published in 2001, the book grew out of a journalism conference held at Harvard University in 1997. Even then, at the virtual dawn of the World Wide Web, media executives and practitioners were concerned about the state of the industry and its mission. Out of that confab the Committee of Concerned Journalists was formed (with Kovach as co-founder).

The fact that just over two decades later the book is now in its fourth edition, is telling. Each edition reflects the latest changes that have swept the industry and the entire media landscape, as well as its relationship to a healthy democracy. I've only just begun to delve into the book, but I already know it will be extremely rewarding.

In case you weren't aware (and how could you not?), journalists aren't held in quite as much esteem as they were back when I was in middle school. Much of that is the fault of the media itself. We have a reputation, often well-earned, for arrogance. Much of it has to do with the way media has had to adapt to and interact with broader changes in society.

But in my travels, I've sometimes found that people who dislike journalists don't really know a lot about how we go about our work, or even what drives us to do the work we do (hint: it's usually not for the money). I would guess that most people have never met a working journalist, much less taken the time to ask them about their role.

To that end, I want to pass on something. The Exchange Club of Sugar Land has kindly invited me to be the guest speaker at its breakfast meeting on February 15 at the Sugar Creek Country Club. I don't pretend to be a particularly accomplished public speaker (that's one reason I chose to go into print), but I promise that I'll be friendly and try to share some of my thoughts about working at a newspaper here in Fort Bend and answer your questions.

I've been told that anyone is welcome to attend. I'd like to meet you. I'll include a reminder in the column before the meeting.

As always, please send story ideas and news tips to me at

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