getting paid to write is really the best thing ever

i spent some hours today at the main library (honestly, is there any better place on earth?) (i have made my peace with the CML) on the humanities floor and stumbled upon some sort of First Amendment section.

i think that talking to people, writing down what they say, reading what other people have already said about it and spinning the whole thing into a news story is generally very easy and requires maybe one quarter of classes at maximum. that’s why political blogging is so prevalent.

Taking journalism one step further in any direction requires super genius. I am not a genius, but I know lots of people who are. I’m not trying to be profound or make it sound more important than it is. In a nuclear holocaust-type situation, journalists would be the first ones thrown into the fire — and that’s why I’m trying to learn electricity and plumbing and read the Bible. Maybe Merlin will teach me to hunt.

It’s just that we all want to become better at our particular craft, and there are loads of you out there doing the same thing I do on a daily basis, and we are all relatively new in our careers, and ‘New Media’ is creeping up on Traditional Media like a nerdy thief (with a really rich spouse!) in the night. Do you have any heroes?

 For example: Who is your favorite journalist? Pick one from now and one from the past.

I think OU’s fine journalism program left out the part where we learn about (ha!) other journalists. Particularly journalists with lady parts. A couple of names were thrown in at random, and I learned along the way that Hemingway and Steinbeck and Crane and other literary types also happened to write for (and mostly loathe their time at) newspapers.

But there was no course titled History of Journalism, or even A List Of People Who Have Succeeded At This. They just sort of gave us a notebook and an AP Style Book and helped us make fun of the Athens Messenger (which was way more than they did for the poor Lantern kids, from what I’ve heard). Anyway, there have been several occasions when I have been embarrassed not knowing Erma Bombeck or Ernie Pyle or a million others who have come up in conversation with sources. Who is Joseph Pulitzer?

Anyway, I checked out this book, which will serve as a cheat sheet until I can find more information. Bill Cohen is No. 1 right now on my list of local news-gathering heroes. He also tops the Man-crush list at the moment, mainly because Seth almost got him to call me at work on Friday, (he knows people) but he was trumped by the Guvna. Thank goodness. I would have nothing to say to him but “I love you, tiny bearded man. Teach me to ask the questions of life.”

When you get done with your high school play previews and your ALL-business features, let’s do something, guys. In the meantime, who is your hero? Whose coattails can I cling to?

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  • Angie Schmitt

    Bethany McLean. This lady must have been in her twenties when she wrote an article for Fortune Magazine called “Is Enron Overpriced?” Her article basically began the scrutiny of the company that led to the exosure of massive corruption and its demise, and then a big old recession.

    You must rent “Enron: the Smartest guys in the Room.” I guess all she did was meet with the big-shots at the company and ask them how they made their money. They couldn’t answer her and called her a bimbo who hadn’t done her research.

    She’s my hero. Also, I just heard her on NPR saying that rating firms, like Moody’s and Standard and Poors, basically accepted kick-backs from mortgage lenders to nuture sub-prime lending to the point of disaster.

  • Bill Melville

    There are no heroes.

    You only lower yourself by putting someone else on a pedestal.

  • Merlin

    An amazing post, as always. My wilderness survival skills are always available to those who wish to learn.

    I’ve recently been reading some of Bob Woodward’s books, sort of narrative journalism covering Watergate and the CIA. His writing makes me think about what questions I forget to ask during interviews. The better we are at interviewing others, I guess, the more information we have to work with.