Tuesday, August 26, 2008

From One Olympiad to Another

One of the things I enjoy most about being a technical writer is that it means I’m no longer a newspaper writer. Being a technical writer means I’m part of a club of writers who fidget and fussbudget about getting things right without necessarily marrying ourselves to the rightness of what we produce. Fact is fact. Argument, even, must be supported by fact. The facts we deal with are rarely nebulous. In journalism, however, while we occasionally juggle such non-nebulous facts, we’re more often called on to wrestle with the nebulous “facts” that are, in fact, opinions of those who hold them to be facts. As I look back on the failings of my journalism career, I can see that it was juggling these various areas of “truthiness” that burned me out. I wasn’t the journalist I wanted to be, and realized that what I wanted to be I didn’t want to be any more. So I got out.

That brings me to this: Jon Stewart’s skewering of the media as a minor warm-up act to the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

What he says, I have to agree with. Too many reporters are on that gerbil wheel when it comes to news coverage, any coverage at all. I know. I used to be on that wheel, inuring myself to the squeak-squeak of the wheel’s wire fittings. This is not to say, however, that there aren’t fabulous journalists out there who are far from the wheel as possible, but are rather scooting through the tubes and tunnels of the Greater Gerbil Playland. I am saying I’m not one of those journalists. I am saying there are plenty of journalists like the journalist I was, just stuck on that wheel, either unwilling or unable to recognize that they’re on that wheel, running, running.

I’m also saying this – too many (like the reporter here at CNN) believes he or she is not that type of journalist. It’s the “other” journalists that are on that wheel. Not me. The others. THE OTHERS. I can stand aside with Jon, wryly observing their futile journeys, while I am off in those tubes, scurrying about, doing better things. (There is another journalist specie I should touch on here: The ex-journalist, happy to be out of the industry and self-righeous about his or her exit. I mention this for obvious reasons.)

Mr. Stewart knows where he is, vis-à-vis the candidates’ use of his show: “Even as Stewart shredded reporters for, in his estimation, getting too cozy with and used by political candidates, he readily admitted that candidates flock to his show to attract his much sought after younger audience. ‘It's just one part of their sales pitch,’ he said.” But the smug journalists (I was one of them, I know) say, “See! Even Jon gets used! He’s on the wheel! Sqeeek squeek squeek!” Not so, folks.

Bah. I think they say it best in Fiorello!: “Politics and poker, politics and poker! Deal out the cards and find the joker!” (This may not be an actual quote, but it in harmony with the son’g message. Finding a quote on the Internet has proven difficult; obviously they don’t want the lyrics to fall into enemy hands. Anyone with a correct quote is welcome to help me out here.)

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