susan berg

I always thought that journalism was an appealing industry, because it meant you lived in a milieu of scrappy, funny people, who did not talk about how they had a calling.

One of my favorite stories about being a journalist comes from the preface of Wallflower at the Orgy. When she was at The New York Post, an editor told Nora Ephron that the best reason to be a journalist was that you could see people reading your stories on the subway on your way home from work. Nora Ephron waited years to encounter someone reading one of her’s. One day she did. He read it her story for maybe ten seconds, then turned the page.

I like this story, because it seems to speak to some of the narcissistic drive that causes people to think that people everywhere should be reading their pieces on, say, the real reason Tom and Kate broke up.

That, and it is a way to get to spend a lot of time with people who read, but do not discuss how they are “lovers of literature.” I’ve known some news reporters who also get to wear funny hats, so that’s nice.

You know what I haven’t seen from many people in newsrooms? People roaring around talking about their great love of truth when they really could be writing pieces. I mean, at least I don’t think you often see that when they’re sober.

This comes up on Political Animals ( a surprisingly great, engaging show) when a Maureen Dowd type character (who writes snappy articles about how the president is a “fashionista in chief, elected a man of the people, but he’s just a man of the Prada” which… is not really great writing, but okay) yells at a younger blogger, who writes pieces predicting what people might wear to state dinners, “of all the industries available to you looking the way you do – porn, reality hosting – you chose journalism. Why? You don’t care about its history, you have no sense of regard for what we do, or whose come before you!”

I kept waiting for the character to reply “I chose journalism because it seemed fun, and easy for me to succeed at.” People generally choose jobs that are easy for them. They do not choose jobs because of their overwhelming regard for all those that came before them, and, again, in this case, the character shouting that was writing op-eds about “fashionistas in chief” so I have NO IDEA what they’re talking about.

Meanwhile, Will McAvoy can’t seem to stop shouting about how they used to have newsmen with names like Rather. I’m going to steal a quote from Kevin Seccia about this which runs “The year 2047. “Were you a hero, grandpa?” Long, meaningful pause. Looks up. “I was… a newsman.” Last scene from the Newsroom finale.” Which, yes, that seems like how it is going to end.

God help you if you work at a gossip magazine in the world of Newsroom, because then you are not just supplying people something diverting to read while they’re sitting on a toilet, you are destroying America. This is vaguely absurd because I think most people who like to write about things want to do it because 1) it’s fun and 2) they are slightly narcissistic and 3) also, the truth, but tempered by points 1 and 2.

Simply being a journalist doesn’t make you a hero. It makes you someone who, potentially, reports on heroic things that other people do. Most real life journalists seem to recognize this and don’t go around screeching about respect for everyone who has come before them, because, you know, they have scotch to drink and jokes to make. I wish we could see a little bit more of that on any show featuring them. I wish someone could make it an industry that, in addition to uncovering “the truth” seems a little bit fun. But, until then: