All posts by L Douglass Bottorff

Author of The Journalist's Journey.

A new year

A new year begins. Yes, according to the calendar, the new year began on Friday January 1, 2016. For most of us, the first, second, and third days of the year were part of a long weekend. The real work begins on Monday, January 4.

I hope that by now you have decided whether or not to make resolutions. I hope that your January calendar is completed, along with your January budget.

Do you have a budget? Do you have a calendar?

If not, then I ask you to consider this; if you aren’t willing to plan your own life, do you have any basis for an expectation of a better life for yourself? Do you have an expectation that 2016 will be a better year?

I am an optimist. I expect life to get better. For humans as a whole, that is true. However, as individuals, life frequently does not turn out the way we expected. We don’t stay married as long as we expected. We don’t live as long as we expected. We aren’t as healthy, as individuals, as we expected.

The place for each of us to start making the world a better place is to start making ourselves better people. That is the point of making new year’s resolutions. That is the point of making a personal calendar and a budget. Get control of your life before you attempt to control the lives of others.

You might get lucky and have some success, but if you can’t get control of your money and time, you probably aren’t going to get control of much else. Good luck with the new year!

Should we trust the media?

In the recent Republican Presidential debate, some candidates criticized the media and one candidate said “..the American people don’t trust the media.”

Do we trust the media? Can we expect the media to be honest and fair? Can we expect the media to be objective?

The objectivity of journalists is one of the ideas explored in my book, The Journalist’s Journey. The journalist of the title, Stan Maceo, considers himself a working man, a journalist in solidarity with the oppressed workers struggling against American capitalism. His love interest, Austin Hart, challenges his ideas. She has achieved a reputation for fairness in reporting to the business world, something that earns her the scorn of some journalism students.

Both Stan and Austin would reject the labels of left-wing journalist or right-wing journalist. Stan might consider himself center-left, or even left leaning, but he would never admit to being biased or an extremist. Austin’s personal politics are never revealed except that she rejects the automatic assumption that corporations are evil. Perhaps that makes her a right-wing journalist, but she would never consider herself that. People are human, and most of us don’t want to think that we are extremists. We want to get along with our friends, even the ones we disagree with, so we tend to avoid labeling ourselves into an ideological pigeon hole.

We should be more honest with ourselves. I admit that I am conservative. My position on immigration, legalization of marijuana, and abortion might put me at odds with my conservative friends, but if I honestly assess my attitudes and opinions, I usually come down on what I consider the conservative side. Still, I don’t consider myself a right-wing writer. I might consider myself a Christian writer who has a high regard for traditions, but I am also reluctant to think of myself as an ideologue.

No one wants to admit to their own biases, but we all have them. Do we trust the media? We probably only trust the media to the extent that what they say conforms to our biases. Can we expect the media to be honest and fair? Honesty alone will not prevent bias; a biased human still has to decide what news is reported. Can we expect the media to be objective? As long as biased humans decide what to report and how to report it, we can expect biased reporting. If we understand our own biases, we can better judge the biases of what we see, hear, and read in the media. Objective reporting is an ideal. Ideally, reporters are aware of their biases and try to modify their reporting accordingly; but journalists are under enormous pressure to write quickly, and quick writing will bring the temptation to play to biases.

My advice; don’t expect objectivity. Expect journalists to be human.

Finally available

This is the book I wanted to write. The Journalist’s Journey is about that mythical secret, the formula for turning water into fuel. The journalist, Stan Maceo, is an ambitious young man who wants to develop a reputation for relevant reporting. He has a plan, but it gets complicated when he falls in love with a beautiful woman who already has a reputation for good journalism. Of course, there has to be someone to protect the secret formula, and there is a team of petroleum industry people under the leadership of Breckenridge Grayson. Grayson is a veteran of the US Army, and he has experience fighting terrorists in Afghanistan and here at home. Early in the story, Grayson is recruited to lead the team that protects Formula 329. He has to leave his old job where he was leading a piracy fighting team. Stan, the journalist, manages to get a job on Breck’s old team, and has success when the team deploys against real pirates. When Stan accidentally discovers the existence of Formula 329, he makes plans to expose the secret, but he must first deal with Breckenridge Grayson, a man whose opinion of journalists is: They’re like the enemy, but we aren’t allowed to shoot them. By the end of the story, they’re all friends, and the formula is still a secret. If you want to know why, you’ll need to read the book.

A new book.

Do any of you actually start a new school year with excitement? Is the first day of class full of anticipation of the new knowledge you will learn?

I used to feel that way at the beginning of each school year, until I went to college. Each year, I would look forward to new books, new friends, and new opportunities to learn.

Then, in college, I actually had that feeling at the beginning of each semester.

In both cases, by the time the end of the year or semester came, I was usually exhausted from the work, frequently too exhausted to appreciate all that I had learned. Worse, sometimes I was actually disillusioned at how the class turned out to be far less than I had anticipated.

But that didn’t stop me. At the beginning of the next semester, I was excited again. That feeling continued up through my graduate classes at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Later in life, I pursued professional networking certifications. Again, when I bought a new book to study, I was excited by the prospect of learning new things. Again, by the time I was through with each book, I was frequently exhausted, but I must have gotten something out of it, because I still look at each new book with anticipation at what I will inside the covers.

Now, I have a proof book of my own writing – The Journalist’s Journey. I’m excited. The cover turned out to be much more beautiful than I had anticipated. Now, I need to go through and proof-read the entire text. That’s a lot of work, but I’m still excited by what is ahead.

My hope is that the finished product will excite you.

 

Journalist’s Journey

Journalist's Journey

Stan Maceo is a journalist whose ambition goes beyond financial success; he desires relevance. He wants to have a reputation that will make his work meaningful. He has a plan, but his plan is complicated by falling in love with a woman who is already a successful journalist. Then, Stan gets the scoop on one of the most closely guarded industrial secrets ever; the secret of turning water into fuel. Stan’s response to that opportunity is surprising; he is going to help keep it a secret.

Love, loyalty, and a new outlook on the world will drive Stan to take a path that he never would have imagined.

 

This book should be available by August 31, 2014.

Why I wrote The Warrior’s Prayer

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Over the years, many stories have built in my head. One of these stories, which will be published later in 2014, was a story that I wrote about two young journalists, a formula for changing water into fuel, and an Army veteran who got involved in protecting the secret of the formula. The central characters of that story were Stan Maceo and Austin Hart, and Breckenridge Grayson. The purpose of the story was and is to explore issues in journalism and the importance of energy to our modern economy. Once I had written the story, I decided that I should write the set-up novel before attempting to publish my first story. So, in The Warrior’s Prayer, I told the story of how the John 9 system was set up. I wanted to tell the story of the system because I think it is important for readers to understand that the technology that we use to defend ourselves is expensive and difficult to build. Sometimes it is necessary to keep these systems secret and occasionally we succeed in keeping secrets secret.

But more importantly, I feel that in the real world these systems have their shortcomings. So it was that the terrorists had figured out how to hide a nuclear device by towing it under enough water. In fiction and real life, luck plays a role. In the story, it was luck that Johnson Larue worked on the platform that was attacked and when he called his brother, Jackson, the John 9 system was able to detect the nuclear device as it was taken to the platform.

I do not wish to glorify war, but I believe that men need to be encouraged to be ready to fight against those who would do us harm. And, I think that faith is an important part of being ready for battle. Breckenridge Grayson leads a small group of soldiers that are Christians but are realistic enough to know that God does not protect us from every possible evil. They prayed together in Afghanistan and they continue to pray together before attempting anything dangerous. I am aware that there are plenty of atheists and agnostics in the armed forces – I used to be one. But I think that people of faith should not be ashamed of depending on God when facing the horrors of war. I think we are better fighters when we see ourselves as part of a purpose driven life. I don’t think atheism provides an effective way to deal with the horrors of war.

Good fiction should make the reader think. I want the reader to think about the questions that Austin Hart asked Spencer Davies regarding the operation of an oil company. Oil is the backbone of our economy and there is a lot of misunderstanding about how oil interacts with the rest of the economy. I want readers to think about journalism in general. Do you trust journalists to report objectively? Is there any such thing as objective journalism? Why do you trust some journalists but not others? I hope this story makes you think about the information you get and why you trust people to deliver information to you.