Sunday, April 4, 2010

Confessions of a Recovering Journalist Part One

April 4, 2010
In my younger days I used to commit journalism.
While being a university professor is the best job I’ve ever had, being a journalist was probably the most fun.
What’s not to like? Just hanging out a lot, meeting interesting people, being the first to find out something, getting backstage passes.
As I say, what’s not to like?
I only did journalism for about five years or so: two newspapers, some radio stations and a cable television operation.
And instead of being referred to as a journalist, actually, I prefer the word “reporter.”
Reporters are guys who pal around with cops, judges, and aldermen. While they’re all friendly, sort of, reporters aren’t afraid to write critical things about cops, judges, and aldermen. If the reporter is fair, the cops, judges, and aldermen recognize that just as their jobs require them to be tough with people, the reporter has a job to do, too.
It’s all very professional. Everybody has a role to play.
Journalists? I’m not sure what they do. Go to grad school, I guess. And try to make journalism into a “profession” like law or medicine.
Given a choice between a journalist and a reporter, I’d rather read what a reporter has to say.
Best compliment I ever heard for a reporter was at a newspaper. Referring to a thin, middle aged reporter, the assistant editor said something like: “Don is old school. He can turn out a story with a cup of two-day old coffee and an old beat up typewriter with only 12 keys that work.”
Don was a reporter, you see. Not a journalist.
At any rate, I describe myself as having once been a journalist because not many people remember what a reporter is any more. Reporters have gone the way of bottle openers, floored-based car dimmer switches, and those old beatup typewriters.
But I miss those guys. And there were some sharp women among them, too.
If we still had reporters, someone before last year’s election would have asked Barack Obama the tough questions.
And then, from a haze of cigarette or cigar smoke, one of those reporters in their rapid two-fingered hunt-and-peck typing style would simply have written what Candidate Obama said.
And Obama would be found wanting.
And things would have been different.
It would have all been very simple.
No messiah. No swooning journalists. No tingling legs.
The fourth estate would have done its job.
Reporters would report. You would decide.
I miss those guys.

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