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Lalley: What's going on, really?

The foundation of what we do is tell you stories to help you make decisions about your life. The question we all need to ask is, "Why?" That's the question Patrick Lalley in Sioux Falls will be asking in his new column.

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Patrick Lalley is the engagement editor and reporter in Sioux Falls.
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SIOUX FALLS , S.D. — Tell me what’s really going on.

That’s the core of good journalism, at least as I've come to know it.

Describing what you do in life is pretty straightforward. You’re a plumber or an insurance agent, administrative assistant or assembler.

When people ask what I do, I’ve had many different answers. Reporter or editor are the most common but in recent years I’ve just said writer. That’s been the essence of it, whether that was working in news or consulting or marketing.

On Aug. 1, I joined the Forum Communications family, which includes the Mitchell Republic. Officially, I am the engagement editor and reporter for Forum News Service in Sioux Falls. That’s what you’ll see at the bottom of my stories.

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It's not who I am though.

I grew up in the North End of Sioux Falls, where my family has lived for four generations. I graduated from O'Gorman High School and the University of South Dakota, spent 10 years bouncing around newspapers, covering Iowa politics before landing back home, joining the Sioux Falls Argus Leader in 1998.

At the foundation of it all is writing or, perhaps more specifically, storytelling in all its glorious print and electronic forms.

Here’s the rub.

First, you need a story to tell.

That’s why I love working in news. That’s where the stories are, the really good ones.

Joy … glory … pain … revenge … greed … power.

These are the elements of story from the ancients to the classics to Bill Janklow .

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Within those forces are multitudes of combinations from which stories develop and are told.

It’s like playing with LEGOs.

How many combinations are possible using six LEGO blocks with two rows of four nubs each?

I’ll save you the math. It’s 915,103,765.

To stretch the analogy a bit, that’s a lot of stories.

As noted, though, “what” we do is straightforward. It’s shorthand for easy introduction and conversation.

The more difficult question is the “why,” the answer to which is related to our station, ambition, education, and the many less-definable influences of life.

For me, that’s journalism, a term I never much liked because it sounded like a college degree more than a purpose. (Plus, my degree is in history.)

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In my less-combative maturity, I’ve come to accept it, to see it differently.

Still, the word journalism is a poor answer to the “why” question. For that, there needs to be deeper introspection and distillation.

Why do you truly do what you do?

The answer, for me, is spreading truth so people can understand the forces that affect their lives in ways seen and unseen.

The essence of a free people is the ability to make the decisions that are best for us as individuals. That’s free will, guided by the principles and wisdom of those who’ve gone before us.

Free will, of course, is tempered by the need for structure, for law, for government.

It doesn’t always work. Sometimes it seems like it’s not working at all.

Joy, glory, pain, revenge, greed and power motivate each of us in familiar ways.

Heady stuff to be sure. Which is not to say that every news story is some sort of thesis on individual liberty versus social balance.

Not at all.

It shows up at the city council and the grocery store.

On baseball diamonds and bike trails.

Board rooms and back rooms.

Sometimes, they are big stories about corruption by this or that public agency. More often, they are the small things, the everyday decisions which govern how we live.

There are many, many people in this world with interest in how those stories are told.

It’s our job — my “why” — to tell you what’s really going on.

I thank you for that.

MORE FROM PATRICK LALLEY:

Related Topics: SIOUX FALLS
Opinion by Patrick Lalley
Patrick Lalley is the engagement editor and reporter for Sioux Falls Live. Reach him at plalley@siouxfallslive.com.
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