This Is Not Journalism

ReporterOne of my four brothers has a journalism degree with a photojournalism emphasis from Northern Illinois University.  Randy started his career at the Kewanee Star Courier (Illinois) as a photographer back in the 1980’s, before the internet became a place where many people looked for their daily news.  His next career move was to become the editor of our home-town weekly newspaper, the Galva News (Illinois)—still before the internet news boom.  I lived in Wisconsin at the time but I subscribed to the Galva News so I could read his essays.  He produced a regular weekly column where he often wrote comical essays about what it was like to grow up in our family with five little boys, one big boy (our dad) and one regular adult (our mom).  Lots of really great writing.

But, working for small-town newspapers, Randy did not just take photographs for publication, he also wrote news articles for both newspapers.  That is, he was not just a photojournalist, he was a full journalist.

I, on the other hand, was trained as an engineer.  I have never really thought the term “web log” described the contents of RxTrace very well but I still usually refer to it as a “blog”, the modern colloquial term for “web log”.  But whatever RxTrace is, I believe even less that it is “journalism”.  There are so many other websites that cover a wide range of news topics in the pharmaceutical industry and the supply chain, and I don’t put RxTrace into that same class.  Those are true journalism sites in my view.  RxTrace contains my opinions, interpretations and analysis of topics and ideas that are of personal interest to me.  By typically covering only one topic a week, my site cannot compare with those news sites.  They cover news, I cover things that interest me.  There is a big difference.

Sometimes what interests me during a particular week turns out to also be breaking news.  In fact, in a few instances, I have actually scooped the news sites with analysis of topics and ideas that are fresh news, but those are just coincidences.  The only reason that happens sometimes is when I am very interested in a particular idea and so I write about it as soon as a related event happens.  For example, I have been—and will continue to be—right on top of certain ideas related to Unique Device Identification (UDI), State and Federal track and trace legislation and the technologies needed to meet them.  But that does not make this “journalism”.

The purpose of journalism is to inform.  Most of my essays do that too but it is more of a side-effect than the main intention.  The main intention of most of my writing in RxTrace is to explore ideas.  The  purpose of exploration is to discover.  From exploration of ideas and discovery, I learn, and the reader gets to read the outcome.  Usually, the result is that we are all informed, thus making it seem like journalism, but the process to achieve it is distinctly different (see my essay, “Writing Is Thinking. For Example, Ken Traub”).

Today, my brother Randy is the publisher and executive editor of Sustainable City Network, an online business-to-government media and publishing operation that provides municipal professionals with quality and timely information on sustainability products, services and best practices, where he still manages to do some of the writing.  It was fun to talk with him briefly about our respective writing during the family holiday gathering.

I also have a cousin, Dana Theus, who is a prolific blogger and consultant.  She is the founder, owner and operator of InPower Women and InPower Consulting, Inc.  On the same side of the family I have another cousin, David A. Rodgers, who has had a long career as an award winning photojournalist, serving earlier in his career as a staff photographer for the Boston Globe, the former Rocky Mountain News and now a freelance nature photographer and digital artist for various outdoor magazines including Down East Magazine.  No writing that I am aware of, but amazing photographs.

Between my brother, cousin Dana and me, a whole lot of writing gets done, but only Randy’s writing and David’s photographs are truly “journalism” in my opinion.  What Dana and I write is something else—no more journalism than what an author of a book produces.  So don’t look to RxTrace for industry news.  What you will find there instead is simply ideas I am thinking about and exploring this week.  If you are in the pharma supply chain, I think you may be thinking about some of these same topics and perhaps even the same ideas, as I am often told by readers.

In 2014 I hope to explore ideas within the following topics at the very least:

  • FDA implementation of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) contained within the Drug Quality and Security Act (DQSA)
  • Industry responses to the DSCSA and the FDA
  • Serial number randomization and why it is a necessity even though the DSCSA doesn’t require it
  • A closer look at today’s typical pharma supply chain crimes and how the DSCSA does and does not prevent them
  • Implications of the Unique Device Identification (UDI) implementation timeline
  • Implications of the DSCSA timeline
  • A close look at some of the results of the 2014 RxTrace U.S. Pharma Traceability Survey, sponsored by Frequentz
  • What is the magnitude of the counterfeit drug problem in the U.S. pharma supply chain?
  • Why the RFID will not be used in the pharma, biotech and medical devices supply chains anytime soon
  • Why serial number-based aggregation data collection will benefit drug manufacturers
  • …And much more.

Watch for these ideas and more!  Happy New Year!


9 thoughts on “This Is Not Journalism”

  1. Dirk,

    Nice article about the distinction. It is what I call “content” blogging. Where content is in the eye of the beholder on those topics of common interest.

    Best for a happy and healthy New Year.


  2. Happy New Year Dirk! I look forward to your 2014 articles, or what the hell you choose to call them!

    As a scientist with some expertise in Galois Field Arithmetic and prime numbers, I understand why we need serial number randomization. Random numbers are the best defense against counterfeiting.

    The problem is many IT managers are mired in the 1950’s IBM 1401 way of thinking (yes, I am that old). They expect that every 20 digit number need to have it’s own database entry; a huge memory space. There are many algorithms with which the 20 digits can be compacted into a database of the size of the total numbers actually used.

    Keep the wonderful work, Dirk!

  3. Thanks for all that you do, no matter what you call it. I enjoy and look forward to all of the information that you provide on such a timely basis. It is greatly appreciated. Have a Happy and Health New Year!

    1. Robert, Clive, Stephen, Nap, Kishore and John,
      Thanks for your support in 2013 and I hope 2014 is a great year for you and your families.


  4. Hello, Dirk. Thank you for a most enjoyable column—with personality! I would have enjoyed sitting in on that family discussion, as both Editor of Healthcare Packaging, and as a Northern Illinois University Journalism grad, with a Public Relations emphasis. Your columns extend beyond reporting the news to interpreting and analyzing what the news means to a specific industry segment(s). Call it a blog or weblog, I believe it provides value and perspective to readers and look forward to further developing the RxTrace-Healthcare Packaging relationship in 2014. Happy New Year my friend!

    1. Jim,
      Thanks for your kind words, and thanks for all your help and support with the Healthcare Packaging RxTrace column in 2013. I also look forward to the relationship in 2014.


  5. Dirk,
    I’ll gladly digest your “non-journalistic” contributions any time! 🙂 Happy New Year … looking forward to more great posts in 2014!
    Best regards,

    1. Dave,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate your support. Happy New Year to you as well!


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