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My Values-Driven Life Calls Me To FāVS

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By Steven A. Smith

Those who know me well may be a bit surprised to find that I have chosen to write for SpokaneFāVS (Faith/Values/Community), this wonderful digital news site. More accurately, I have been allowed to join the site’s stable of writers, welcomed by Executive Director Tracy Simmons.

Steven A Smith

Tracy is FāVS founder and a former colleague at the University of Idaho. Her site is one of the most respected hyperlocal digital news sites in the country. Its growth during the pandemic is a testament to its writers’ production of quality news and opinion.

But there is that term, “faith,” in the site’s name. People who know me know I have precious little of that, at least in the spiritual sense.

I was raised in a Jewish household, first in Portland, Oregon, later in Eugene. My family was not overly religious, at least after we left the vibrant Jewish community in Portland when I was 10 years old. But my father was religious, and he hoped I would be, too. It did not follow.

In part my loss of faith came about because I was a child of the ‘60s, so preternaturally anti-establishment. In part it was because I was a journalist, professionally from about the age of 16. A journalist is, by nature, is an inconoclast, a skeptic. The old journalism cliché, “if your mother tells you she loves you, check it out,” is also a truism. To the journalist, it is always a case of “prove it.”

In terms of religion, no one has ever been able to prove it to my satisfaction. Spiritually, I reside somewhere between agnosticism and atheism but with a fair dash of secular Judaism.

I have always bridled at the notion that only people of faith can be moral, that agnostics and atheists cannot possibly live moral lives absent a belief in a higher power. As a skeptic, I believe to my core that no one person, no one group, no one faith, has a lock on absolute truth.

I do believe in values and a values-driven life and so maybe there is a place for me with FāVS.

As a journalist, I long advocated values-driven journalism based on principles of community. A values-driven journalist has a commitment to truth insofar as truth can be determined. A values-driven journalist has a commitment to democratic systems that enfranchise all citizens. A values-driven journalist has a commitment to give voice to the voiceless and to defend the defenseless. A values-driven journalist has a commitment to news and information that helps citizens exercise their citizenship.

Writing about personal and professional values is my sweet spot, I think. And that will be the focus of my work for FāVS. I hope to write about the intersection of values and politics, the intersection of values and journalism, even the intersection of values and faith. I may do some reporting. But at this point in my post-retirement life, I feel a compulsion to opine, something I could not do as a professional journalist or public-university academic.

I hope the work I do produce will provoke. I hope to generate conversations that should be happening in our community but are not, the sort dialogue necessary to a vital, vibrant civil society. And I will always welcome your suggestions and ideas. Let me know what you think.

If you appreciate this column, please support us by becoming a sustaining FāVS member or giving to our COVID-19 Reporting Fund.

About Steven A Smith

Steven A. Smith is clinical associate professor emeritus in the School of Journalism and Mass Media at the University of Idaho having retired from full time teaching at the end of May 2020.

Smith is former editor of The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington. As editor, Smith supervised all news and editorial operations on all platforms with a staff ranging from more than 140 in 2002 to 104 at the time of his resignation in October 2008. Prior to joining The Spokesman-Review, Smith was editor for two years at The Statesman Journal, a Gannett newspaper in Salem, Oregon, and was for five years editor and vice president of The Gazette, a Freedom Communications newspaper in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Newspaper Management Center Advanced Executive Program and a mid-career development program at Duke University. He holds an MA in communication from The Ohio State University where he was a Kiplinger Fellow, and a BS in journalism from the University of Oregon.

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