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Former Fresno Bee executive editor visits Feather team

Blake Deffenbacher | The Feather Online

Former executive editor and senior vice president of The Fresno Bee, Jim Boren, came to campus to kick off Scholastic Journalism week, Feb. 15.

To begin Scholastic Journalism Week (SJW), Jim Boren, former executive editor and senior vice president of The Fresno Bee, came to the FC campus to teach Feather journalists and answer questions, Feb. 15.

Boren’s 48-year career in journalism began while he was attending Hoover HS in Fresno. The newspaper adviser inquired if he would be interested in covering sports for the school paper. Boren accepted the invitation and loved it.

Upon graduating, he attended Fresno City College, and later Fresno State, with a bit of doubt as to what he wished to pursue. Boren landed on journalism as his major and at the age of 19, The Fresno Bee offered him a position during the summer which ultimately evolved into a permanent full-time job in 1972.

Since, Boren has covered local and national topics including politics, sports and news as well as serving the position of editorial page director for The Fresno Bee for several years. Most recently, he worked as the executive editor and senior vice president.

After 48 years in media, Boren has watched technology advance until today where journalists are expected to be “backpack journalists.” With a smartphone, one can snap pictures, videos, write and record.

You have to be able to go wherever the world is going. The key thing to remember is to not worry so much about the technology, but worry about the journalism. Whatever platform you use in your career, storytelling is always going to be there. You want to be a compelling storyteller. You want to be able to write and tell stories, and that hasn’t changed ever, from Gutenberg until now. — Jim Boren, former executive editor and senior vice president of The Fresno Bee

“If you look at my profile page on Facebook, it has a photo of my Royal Typewriter and an iPad,” Boren said. “To me that is symbolic of the technological advances throughout my career. In fact, we hardly even use iPads anymore. We use a lot of the stuff now on the smartphone now. We take photos, videos, write stories and interview people.”

I can’t tell you where that technology is going in the future, but I will tell you that you have to adjust,” Boren continued. “You have to be able to go wherever the world is going. The key thing to remember is to not worry so much about the technology, but worry about the journalism. Whatever platform you use in your career, storytelling is always going to be there. You want to be a compelling storyteller. You want to be able to write and tell stories, and that hasn’t changed ever, from Gutenberg until now.”

The art of storytelling is a craft many have worked to master throughout time. Boren argues that storytelling is at the foundation of not just journalism, but any profession. 

“Write well and write compelling stories because you’re going to be telling people stories the rest of your life in whatever profession,” Boren said. “You’re always a leg up in business, public relations, advertising or whatever field you choose if you can tell a story.”

The most important principles of journalism are clearly credibility, fairness and bringing all sides of a story to your readers because there are more than just two sides. — Jim Boren, former executive editor and senior vice president of The Fresno Bee

According to Boren, the core of journalism is integrity and the ability to share stories from as many angles as possible. 

“The most important principles of journalism are clearly credibility, fairness and bringing all sides of a story to your readers because there are more than just two sides,” Boren said. “We’re in a tough time in the business now where trust in media is very low and that’s not a good thing, but we are working to fix that. One of the problems with the internet is that anybody can create a fake news site that spews out stories that appear believable, but aren’t. The media has to be able to sort that all out because what we want is credible news.”

However, Boren believes it is two-sided. The public needs to stay invested in media to be able to discern fake news from factual reporting.

“You need to be a smart news consumer,” Boren said. “If you see a story that is too good to be true, it probably isn’t. The beauty of the internet is that you can Google it and find out if other sites are reporting it. If only one small site that you’ve never heard of is reporting it, you might want to drop it. But the people that participate in media engage in our democracy. You have people that don’t participate in media and they only see what their friends are saying on social media.”

Blake Deffenbacher | The Feather Online

Boren teaches storytelling is the base of journalism no matter where technology goes. Credibility and the ability to tell multiple sides of a story are key in the profession.

Boren retired from his job as executive editor and senior vice president of The Fresno Bee in January of this year. He reflects on his long tenure in public service via his journalism career.

“Journalism is a great job,” Boren said. “I know journalism has changed especially since the time I was in high school but the storytelling aspects will never change. I was trading emails with former governor Pete Wilson this last week and he said, ‘Where has all the time gone?’

“Forty-eight years went very quickly and in some ways,” Boren continued, “I see myself where you students are right now. The career has been very fulfilling and I’ve been blessed to work with the people and the opportunities that I’ve had. It’s been a wonderful ride.”

The following tweet posted on The Feather Online not long after Boren shared with The Feather staff during a special publications workshop, Feb. 15. After Boren shared his personal story, he answered questions from the staff and offered ideas on how to engage with national news, while offering a local angle to Feather readers.

Today, Boren teaches two advanced reporting classes at Fresno State, continues to work as a freelance writer and volunteers with several faith-based organizations, most notably The Salvation Army.

The following video highlights a few of Jim Boren s thoughts as he shared his past journalistic experiences with the feather staff, Feb. 15. Jim Boren worked for The Fresno Bee for 48 years, retiring after 48 years of service. Senior videographer, Jaden Ventura, filmed and edited the video below.

Look out for articles this week about Scholastic Journalism Week. For more on SJW, read Scholastic Journalism Week kicks off, Feb. 18 and last year’s Scholastic Journalism Week Recap.

Alexander Rurik can be reached via Twitter @alexrurik23 and via email: Alexander Rurik.

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