I spent a few years of my life in the news business, and no lie -- journalism, good journalism, is something I value dearly. So imagine my dismay when I overheard some guy a couple of minutes ago blabbing about how he spent a bunch of years in broadcasting because he was a frustrated actor and "didn't give a shit" (his words not mine) about the news.
Stabbed me to the quick, I wanted to put out his lights. Dude, people have died in the pursuit of news.
I know some who would probably join me in my imaginary lynch mob. That guy is exactly the reason why many have left the industry. It's less about substance and much more about style, and not in a good way.
Journalism at its core demands an incredible amount of work, self-discipline and an ability to keep one's emotions out of the story in order to present the facts straight. That's hard to do as anyone knows, and there are a large number of yodels out there who don't check facts, hardly do any research and on many occasions just basically rework a story and then use the caveat, "according to reports."
The internet has given rise to a host of "news" websites in which sometimes rank amateurs put up whatever they deem fit, and readers take a great deal of it as gospel.
These ersatz "journalists" are in part celebrity hounds who like that their name is in print or that videos of themselves playing the part are on the internet for anyone to see. One site touts itself at the forefront of journalism and frankly much of what I see published there are reworked stories from other sources or verbatim press releases.
Being good at something means a lot less than being recognized these days: witness TV shows starring the Kardashians, the Gosselins and the Jersey Shore nitwits. All are recognizable household names, all are people who have done absolutely nothing of value other than just showing up on a lame TV show.
Indeed, if you ask people who Daniel Pearl is, they will most likely give you a blank stare. It gives me pause. He earned his stripes. The last photos of him are grisly reminders of how much those stripes cost him.
Which is why I'm sending kudos to anyone who still considers himself or herself a journalist in the truest sense of the word, still duking it out in the trenches, not wasting time posing for group shots at cocktail parties.
This is a pat on the back to some of my former colleagues who still carry the standard.
You know who you are. And that's the way it is.
Amen, and pass the mustard.