Rather than an expected sparse landscape of black tarred top and twisted vents – lush green sits against those vents as well as a backdrop of sky on the verge of night and surrounding skyscrapers lending light via offices still illuminated after hours. The municipal building in the windy city is just one of the world’s examples of a living roof. Forgotten spaces suddenly renewed.
Living roofs, which provide energy efficiency in utilizing spaces that often do little less than get hot as they sit in the sun, according to National Geographic's Verlyn Klinkenborg, in “Up on the Roof,” aren't new. In Germany flat roofs have been required to turn their tops green since 1989. On the surface, one sees what is a beautiful urban garden. But just beneath the surface is the real beauty. Some specifically designed systems collect rainwater, filtering and trapping it rehydrating the soil, a fully functioning ecological system creating a new habitat for plants, birds, insects and yes – even a few amphibians – and reducing the world’s carbon footprint one roof at a time.
And that got me thinking. Change is everywhere. And in no way is it limited to what’s above our heads.
Right now, no single industry in the country or around the world is escaping the need to reinvent itself. And it's rather exciting. Because it means new ideas, new methods, new products and ultimately new ways of being will evolve. And call me partial, but personally I think the change in how we exchange, produce and provide information to the general public is the most exciting of all. I entered this industry with my soft spot for printed newspapers, the smell of newsprint and the heroic images of the newsmen depicted on television and in movies. Because I thought nothing was more classically American than a man or woman tossing a few quarters up on the counter of a newsstand on a busy street and tucking a paper under their arm on their way to work.
But times have changed, as is painfully clear every day in our industry. And the conversation among all of us news hounds never seems to end. But the direction of our talks are changing. The topics started out troubling and thick – like really bad fog. In the annual State Of The News Media Report put out by The Project of Excellence in Journalism an overview of the industry says it all in the first sentence: “some of the numbers are chilling.”
And the first of several major trends reported, “the growing public debate over how to finance the news industry may well be focusing on the wrong remedies while other ideas go largely unexplored.” Journalists are losing their jobs and fighting for freelance opportunities, newspapers have thrown in the towel on a tangible product completely – jumping feet first into online media.
They’re going to make mistakes as they navigate these change filled waters. A lot of the papers that have turned their heads solely to the online avenue also assume they don’t need to write anything, pulling feeds and headlines to other services rather than keeping the valuable minds of their own reporters. But they’ll figure it out.
Brainstorming what can turn out to be a brilliant new idea, taking daily processes and whipping them up and tossing them around, pulling a fresh take on an old practice – is all part of the romance of change. So why do we fear it so much?
Because the reality is that change sucks.
Because once we figure out we need to start changing…we realize that we need to start changing. It’s a challenge. It's a process. It's work. We're uncertain of the outcomes. It’s painstaking. We build a new product and we have to be patient and wait for it to take off… We start changing our own behavior and we have to wait for the change in belief and in mood to come. We leave a bad relationship and we have to wait and see if a better one awaits.
We get frustrated and we fall down. More than once, more often than not. But the thing is, what was once wonderful, sometimes has to remain what was once wonderful. So we can be awakened to a new kind of wonderful.
Who would have thought…as those skyscrapers burst into the skyline decades and half centuries ago that eventually one day, they would house a lush green meadow? “When we go to the rooftops in cities, it's usually to look out at the view,” Klinkenborg writes. “...I can't help feeling that I'm standing on the view...” What an interesting perspective. Change is everywhere. Navigating it is hard. But resisting it is pointless and frankly, harder. In resisting it, we're the only ones who lose.
For those of us down on the ground, in the newsroom, we have so many opportunities ahead of us to reach you, the priceless reader. We can come into your living rooms, be stuffed into your mailboxes and paper boxes, upload to your iPod, Blackberry or mobile phone. We can be delivered to your PC or Mac in a matter of seconds – one example of the newspaper's future: the New York Times has introduced the the Times Reader 2.0 – the entire paper uploaded to your computer in a matter of seconds, with a paid subscription, so you can carry the news anywhere you go.
Imagine that. A news publication delivered to you, providing revenue and exercising the invaluable act of journalism all at the same time. Novel.
No matter the landscape, a rooftop, a newsroom, an auto giant, a government, your own home, we never know which changes will be good changes until we try. But we figure it out. It’s just going to take a new perspective – and a few changes. And who knows. As painful as it may be to change, when it's all over, the view on the other side may just be a bit greener.