Journalists, in a tight space

"It's God's work; there's a nobility in what we do."
On that first part, I'm not so sure.
As for the second, that I am positive.
We're talking about journalism.
My buddy said that, during a quiet moment where we both openly questioned what we were doing, how we were doing it, where we were doing it - and both agreed that we were equally screwed because it was the only thing we ever wanted to do.
Get a bunch of journalists together and you're going to talk about the craft (and it is a craft; blogging is blogging, but journalism is real-world writing and editing).
There were six journalists on the backpacking trip.
Wordsmiths all; six people - out of maybe a dozen - I know I can trust with the craft. Because we all have written that perfect sentence; we've felt the surge of energy when a piece of copy that was drab was made vibrant by a few keystrokes.
We are not happy where the craft is.
Or where it is going.
Funny, but we are all 40somethings (for the most part) and came into the business squarely between the era of the post-1960s Muckrakers and the rise of corporate newspaper ownership. We're the Generation X of the Baby Boomers of the business; we're more likely to rebel than to give up and join the meat grinder journalism practiced today (where it all looks like sausage, more or less filler).
"I just feel like I'm banging my head against the wall."
"Decisions are being made by the bottom line, and not by good journalism."
"We can't be replaced by bloggers; they don't seem to get it, that the idea is to inform and not to distort or confuse people."
"I don't know you boys, where this is all going."
Between sips of whiskey and uncouth behavior born of the backcountry and friends who have been through quite a lot over the last few years, we didn't solve the woes of our craft. We just know that it's sick.
We know it can get better.
Because the simple truth is, if you just do your job - and you do it with creativity and gusto and you get out of the fucking newsroom every single fucking day and really talk to people - then you are doing the service that drove you to take up this journalism thing in the first place.
Because we have taken an oath to inform and entertain. To seek the truth and expose the corrupt.
It is a helluva beautiful thing when done right.
And you keep your fucking opinions to yourself, and out of print (because no one cares what you think, unless you're an opinion columnist).

"Never wear your best trousers when you go out to fight for freedom and truth."
Henrik Ibsen said that.
I say fuck it.
Wear whatever.
Just go out and fight for freedom and truth.
Get out of the newsroom, get off the fucking telephone.
Get to know the secretaries and the people who really know what's going on. Forge sources and friendships over coffee and conversation.
Entertain and inform.
Tell a good story.
Expose the truth.
Do your fucking job.
Practice your craft.
Polish it until it shines.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amen.

Anonymous said...

"...get out of the fucking newsroom every single fucking day and really talk to people." My friend, I wholeheartedly agree that this is the primary reason that journalism sucks these days. It's appalling to me that people don't do this. When you walk into the newsroom on any given day, it should be damn near empty. "Couldn't be reached for comment," my tushie. Might as well write, "I was too lazy to get out of my chair and go find that person, who is most likely sitting in his/her desk not wishing to talk to me on the phone." I don't know how reporters think they can build relationships with sources (or anyone, quite frankly) over the phone or the Internet. Hard to believe that anybody WANTS to be at their desk all day - isn't that part of the fun of being a reporter? Grrr. Keep up the good fight... you and your grizzled journalist pals.