March 9, 2017

During my budding career, I have been fortunate to work with veteran journalists many years my senior. I was and continue to be grateful for their experience, insight and wisdom, dispensed frequently and with candor.

Some of the most innovative journalists I know are also some of the most experienced. That’s because, to stay in this business through a punishing recession and unceasing technological disruption, they had to learn a lot, fast. They haven’t stopped learning.

Here’s what I would never do to my betters: Call them old. In an industry that all-too-frequently prizes youth and crowds out experienced veterans, the word “old” is accompanied by (unfair) connotations about being out-of-step with modern journalism.

That’s why, when I saw Senior Correspondent’s recent “#LoveOldJournalists” campaign making the rounds on social media this week, I grimaced. In a well-intentioned attempt to honor the experience and perspective that veteran journalists bring to their work, Senior Correspondent is using a word that has become particularly freighted in our chase-the-shiny-object industry.

Some samples:

Margaret Sullivan, The Washington Post’s media columnist, brought The Buffalo News and The New York Times public editor’s gig into the digital age. To define her in public by her age (she is in her late 50s) seems like a head-scratcher.

She wasn’t alone. The campaign also “honored” several other journalists: Dan Rather, Michel Martin and Carl Bernstein, to name a few.

The campaign is the handiwork of Daniel Pryfogle, the founder of Senior Correspondent who is also CEO of Signal Hill, a communications firm in Raleigh, North Carolina. In an interview, Pryfogle explained that the stigma surrounding senior journalists is exactly why Senior Correspondent launched the campaign.

Too often, Pryfogle says, age is viewed as a liability in American culture when it should be viewed as an asset.

“It’s something that we need to honor,” Pryfogle said. “For us, it’s a term of distinction. It’s people who have been around the block a few times and can help us understand the news of the day.”

In Pryfogle’s defense, some journalists named in the campaign haven’t objected to the label. Clyde Haberman, the longtime columnist for The New York Times, thanked Senior Correspondent for the shoutout and for resurrecting a quote about the art of interviewing.

Pryfogle’s Senior Correspondent, which publishes work from contributors who are 50 years or older, touts a “seasoned view of the world” and seems like a worthy effort to impart some perspective amid the daily scramble for breaking news. He encourages those who are “taken aback” by the “old” label to rethink preconceived notions of age in our society.

I applaud Pryfogle’s decision to honor experience and a sense of history in an industry too often consumed by ephemera. And I know this message may sound strange coming from a 25-year-old. But I — and, I suspect, many of my colleagues — would love it if Senior Correspondent didn’t call them old.

Correction: In a previous version of this story, the author of this article forgot his own age. He is 25, not 26.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
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