Karma journalism

By Dave Lieber
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Dave Lieber

Dave Lieber

   Do you think about your karma? I think about it every day. I don’t worry about deadlines. I worry that I’m not putting enough good karma out there so it comes back. So I go overboard, dumping karma over the side of my life boat as if it’s little fish attracting a giant whale of karma. I can give you Texas-sized karma like you wouldn’t believe.
   But don’t get me confused with the guy on the religious TV station, the one with the jet-black dyed hair and the toll-free number. He asks for your money and promises it will come back ten-fold in the name of Jesus. I know this guy personally. I’ve attended his services and written about him. I even know the silver briefcase he carries with all the money he collects from loyal viewers of his weekly TV show. Once we bumped into each other at a Tex Mex restaurant. I looked down and saw his thick fingers tighten like a wrench around the briefcase handle. That was a karma moment.
   See, my karma is journalistic in bent. I use karma to get great stories. Here are a few of my karma mantras:
   There’s no such thing as a small story or small phone call.
   No passion for the writer, no passion for the reader.
   Getting in the right place at the right time isn’t luck. It’s hard work.
   Karma, to me, is about helping someone else so someone else will come along and help me. And like you, the columnist, I do need a lot of help.
   I need help from readers, tipsters, editors, advertising sales people for my newspaper (a new addition to my list), sources who help me, sources who hate me but still can help me and the grocery store where I buy my Red Bull.
   My goal is to have one karmatic moment for each column, each event, so I learn something valuable that is worth sharing with others. Why? So I can do my job effectively.
   A karma example:
   The kids at The Black Cow, the school newspaper where I serve as volunteer adviser (good karma points) created enough good material in their first three years of writing that I envisioned a book of their best works. We published it before Christmas. Twenty-nine student authors were included in this fundraising project, a karma home run.
   We sold the 144-page paperback to proud parents (spreading karma at $10 per copy). Then a bookstore opened near the school. Owners Larry and Angie Granados offered to host a Meet-the-Authors night for the writers of The Best of The Black Cow: Great Writing by Great Kids.
   The event was a wonder. You watched kids not old enough to drive read from their own book. Every kid should have at least one bookstore party in their lifetime.
   Afterward, 9th grader Sarah Titus covered the event in her column. She wrote that she got a good feeling walking inside the Book Carriage & Coffee Shop in Roanoke, Texas because it embraces “a love of reading at an early age, while parents enjoy a quality cup of coffee from the café.”
   Sarah concluded, “Let’s just say that if I were to own a bookstore, it would be exactly like the Book Carriage.”
   Karma struck a few days later when The Black Cow printed owner Angie Granados’ written response:
   “It was such a great honor for me and my family to have these young local students share their accomplishments with us. Sarah’s words touch my heart and make the decision to open a bookstore all worth it.”
   That’s a karma grand slam. Validate somebody’s life dream and you earn premium-level karma points. Unfortunately, under the karma rules of etiquette, I now lose those karma points because this storytelling is considered bragging. Bad karma. Ouch.

Dave Lieber of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram loses even more karma points now that we report that his students’ book won the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Award for Education/Academic books in a national contest.

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