Friday, December 02, 2005

Honest observations from a former journalist

Today is my last day as a journalist. This marks the end of a 12-year career that, if I hadn't told you about it in this blog, you would never have known about it.

If things go as planned and I become a real estate mogul, I promise to never sully the carpets of a newsroom ever again. I can't wait to finally have the chance to air all of my petty grievances (without consideration for editorial policy) in what will likely prove to be a daily routine of epic letters to the editor.

In honor of this day, I offer to you a few pithy quotes on things I learned about journalism and being a professional writer:

- If you are on deadline and are facing a blank page, just about any kind of distraction seems interesting. Even the guy in the next cubicle, whose moronic stock markets tips would bring about another market crash if ever put into practice, seems fascinating.

- If you want to write a book but can't come up with ideas, pretend there's yardwork waiting for you and a wife who thinks it needs to be done immediately.

- If Watergate happened today, Woodward and Bernstein's editor would spike the story because of the unlikelihood they could land good art.

- Unless they could think of a way to compile the thousands of inches of copy to produce something less than 15 inches, and then tell most of the story in a snappy 3-column color graphic.

- News reporters know sports. Sports reporters know gambling. Feature reporters are just waiting for the next government PIO job to open up.

- In the Hall of Dumb Questions, asking the survivor of a tragedy, "So what does it feel like to be alive?" is the benchmark for obtuse displays of human indignity.

- Journalism Rule #1 you won't find in the AP Style Guide ... You cannot write a tornado story wtihout this quote from a witness: "It sounded like a train."

- No government or business story is complete without finding a fringe academic to lend credibility to the most remote minority opinion. This is called "providing balance."

- If you're not finding any news at city hall, you're not trying very hard.

- The best investigative reporting starts with diligent beat reporting.

- And for my wise old J-school professor ... I don't plan on being around to provide the only justifiable slammer in newspaper headlines: "Jesus returns!"

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