Magazine article American Journalism Review

A Snapshot to Go with the Negatives

Magazine article American Journalism Review

A Snapshot to Go with the Negatives

Article excerpt

The press has been shelled from all quarters lately, including books by some of the better creatures of the newsrooms and bureaus. Among other things you keep hearing: People don't like you.

What do you say to someone who wants to go into this line of work?

When I knew I was going to do it and was ready to confess, I was 15. My Aunt Anne took me aside and told me the facts of life. It was in the front bedroom on the first day of her visit and she already had gotten the word: I wanted to work for a newspaper.

She was horrified. She knew all about them. She was married to an editor and knew what he paid.

You will never, ever have any money, she said. I said I knew that. "Never," she exclaimed again, in the days when you knew an exclamation when you heard one. "Ever," she exclaimed again.

That's all I remember about the day.

What do you say now? I wouldn't start the same way. Coming from me, it wouldn't sound like the crack of thunder, anyway, because she and my uncle owned the paper. She knew. And I knew she knew.

It is a bad habit among many journalists to revel in the most Spartan approach. Tell 'em not to do it. Tell 'em horror stories.

The rites of passage have changed, but usually they still include some lamentations from the weary.

Not long ago I had a visit from a newly minted reporter who has been working for a while on a smallish daily and has a one-county beat. When I first met him he had no idea he would want to do what he is now doing. He has taken all the right steps to get there. And he glows with it.

That may change and, in fact, nothing will ever be quite like it again. …

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