Journalists are, for the most part, watchers rather than doers.
We like to sit on the sideline, take notes and mutter snarky comments to each other. When the doing is done, we weigh in with artfully constructed prose that explains what happened and who stepped in it.
That's a fine approach for most news stories. But when the story is the systematic disembowelment of the industry we all know and love, cynical detachment and dispassionate observation won't cut it.
It's time for rank-and-file journalists to demand, or seize, a seat at the table and begin forcefully guiding the industry toward a meaningful future.
In Chicago, where the Tribune Co. declared bankruptcy yesterday and owner Sam Zell has run roughshod over journalistic values, that may mean a coordinated, aggressively public push for his ouster.
It may mean approaching the company's creditors with a rescue plan that includes something more than mindlessly trimming employees and gutting newspapers.
It almost certainly means risking your job by speaking up, or possibly threatening a mass walkout.
A year or two ago, that would have seemed like a risky venture; today, it's the smartest path to ensuring the Trib survives to issue another payroll.
In Denver, where the Rocky Mountain News is on the auction block with little hope of a buyer, it may mean employees found a nonprofit to operate the paper.
In any case, it means the days of journalist as back-of-the-class spitballer are over.
It's time to step up.