Sunday, April 17, 2005

Lazy reporting, lazy blogging

There's nothing more challenging than entertaining a critical crowd, and there's nothing more critical than a crowd of one.

One being me. The pre-fab criticism being I could never live up to my own expectations. I know great writing because I've read great writing and have been inspired by it, not because such fluid prose has ever left my fingers or my lips. I can confess I am not a great writer, but it does not squelch the dreamer's hope I may someday trip upon greatness by the sheer volume of my work.

With that in mind, there's nothing more intimidating for writers than a blank page. Any self-loathing writer worth a buck knows it can only get worse from there. It's a vicious cycle.

Pedal on, young Hemingway.

It may appear ironic that a journalist who regularly fills inches and inches of newsprint is threatened by the notion of jotting down a few thoughts for a daily web log. The problem, of course, is I get paid to put the onus on other people to be interesting. As a journalist, I'm not accustomed to people being very interested in my opinion.

I think what happens to many journalists is they spend their days listening to unqualified people wax on about things they don't really understand. Not that journalists have a much better grasp on the situation, but they probably know other people who know a lot more about any given issue, there's just no credible reason to quote said people in the story of topic. Over a short amount of time, this practice can literally suck the brains out of a reporter, because reporters become used to spending an unwarranted amount of time on material that matters to so little. We know no one cares, so we stop caring, in some sense.

This is not to say I don't value my job, it's just that I know the formula too well. For stories that do not inspire my passion, which is to say nearly all of them, I know how to get them done in a way that is factual but not time-consuming. Did I do any digging? Did I do much research? Did I prepare to ask pointed questions? Did I look hard to find a better source? Probably not. To that end, my stories are factual only in the sense they do not intentionally misrepresent the truth as it is told to me. To say the facts I collect and report represent the whole truth of an issue stretches credibility, however.

I do not consider myself lazy, but neither am I one of those self-motivating whirlwinds of journalism. Neither am I so full of myself to think anyone will be rushing to my blog to see what new entertaining nugget of pontification I've posted next. I'm just not wired that way. Maybe it's a lack of self-importance that does not allow me to probe beyond the call of duty, or believe so profoundly in my ideals that my point of view is understated on the Internet.

Whatever the case, I struggle to find inspiration to fill the pages in a self-satisfying method, both in content and in context. I am guaranteed to be disappointed with my own work.

So I pose the question: Why bother?


Mark Fields said...

I don't know why you're so hard on yourself. The fact you can admit it makes you more honest and more qualified to work at a major media outlet than most of the slaggards currently employed there. Nice job, Gad. Keep posting!

Bug BBQ said...

Your such a kiss ass, Mark. Gad's content with mediocrity. We don't need anymore lazy ass reporters around here. We CERTAINLY don't want any more Zonies on staff. I'm still removing the cacti pricks from the last Zonie who sat near me.

Yusef said...

Self-flagellation won't get you a book deal, YC. We already have one Woody Allen too many. Surely there's something worth saying in between all those pretty word combinations.

NORM said...

Why bother?

Well, for starters, we live in a country that started a major war in the Middle East - presumably to nation-build our way out of a religious war older than our existence.

Secondly, we have a government that increasingly edges out dissent with every jot and tittle it adds to the Patriot Act.

I will say that you have very clearly defined the problem with America: We just don't give a rat's ass anymore.

No wonder Hunter blew his brains out. G-d rest his soul (or, whatever).

One final thought. I'm old enough to remember when reporters - journalists - worked a story until they got to the truth. They didn't have the Internet, they didn't have the keys to the liquor cabinet in the "Green Room," and they actually believed that what they were doing could change lives.

Yeah, it was hard work. So, who doesn't have that element to their job? Frankly, this disease of complacency is epidemic.

Sometimes I daydream about a job where all I had to do was occupy a chair in a cubicle and produce a day's worth of useful widgits.

Nah, I would probably join brother Hunter and the fishes after a year or so.

In my job, I HAVE to produce my best work every day. I slack off just once, and I lose. And yet, I can't wait to get up each morning for another round.


Gaddabout said...

Norm, I'm sure you are paid accordingly. As it stands, I work enough to justify what I do make + about 10 hours free OT each week to make myself feel better. It's hard to justify working more than that when you live so close to the poverty line.

And then there are those handful of stories that drive me at any cost.