Dearest best friends forever,
Guess what? Today when I woke up, I put my underwear on inside out. I blame this entirely on Town Meeting Day yesterday and the towns in Addison County that didn’t bother getting back to me with their results. Thanks for helping me make a fool of myself. Granted, I was the only one who saw the unmentionable debacle, but still, it was embarrassing.
But my skivvy situation is not my reason for writing, however fascinating the topic may seem to you. No, today I’ve dusted off my soapbox and I’m ready to climb up on it and say my piece. I’ve got a bone to pick with Colorado Rep. Jared Polis. This bloviator was quoted recently in the Denver Post expounding the demise of the city’s other paper, the Rocky Mountain News. The Rocky, one of the country’s oldest papers and winner of many Pulitzers, kicked the bucket on Friday, ultimately taken down by lack of advertising, dwindling readership, the rise of the blogosphere, people not giving a rat’s caboose about current events- take your pick.
Polis, who made heaps of money selling greeting cards (thanks to the family biz) and flowers over the Internet, prattled on for lines and lines, hardly able to contain his glee that the Internet had taken down this inimitable paper. Here’s what the b-hole said: “I have to say, that when we say, ‘Who killed the Rocky Mountain News,’ we’re all part of it, for better or worse, and I argue it’s mostly for the better.” Then he went on to pontificate ““The media is dead, and long live the new media, which is all of us.”
Whoa, nelly. Let’s put the brakes on that crazy train. Uh, we’re all the media? Explain that to me, Jared. Can I call you Jared? Anyway, explain how it’s good that everybody and their mother can blog, tweet, Facebook and poop out bits of information that somehow, cobbled together could be construed by a severely myopic person as a nugget of reliable news. I’d be interested to know how a bunch of dingleberries diddling on their computers in their underwear is better than a bunch of trained journalists, and for that matter quality writers.
See, I don’t buy the whole idea of a “citizen journalist.” Of course I’m biased- I work for a major news organization in a major metropolitan area of 40,000 people. I am a “professional” journalist. And by that I mean I read Gawker all day long while occassionally clipping my nails and and making long distance phone calls. No, but seriously, I do fancy myself a real reporter. I look for stories, collect information, gather ideas, write copy, edit, etc. This is hard flipping work. But probably not as hard as selling greeting cards.
I never knew the job could be so tough. When I started, I thought all you had to do bang out a few clever lines about a cat stuck in a tree, have a photographer snap a pic and Presto! You’ve got a real-life piece of journalism. It actually is not like that at all. This is the hardest job I’ve ever had, unless you consider the job I had when I was 15 selling fancy dresses during prom season. From that experience I learned that every girl thinks she’s a size 2, even when the scale proves that she’s more like a 22. And I learned that sequins and me are a dangerous combo.
Anyway, journalism is hard work. Not everyone can do it. Not everyone should do it. Heck, I’m hardly qualified myself. My skills are probably better suited to refilling the office supply closet, but somehow I happened on this gig. More than anything, this job requires a sense of humanity and an understanding and appreciation of the human condition. Not every story is a tear-jerking feature or a whistle-blowing expose (expozayyy). Most of my stories are about kids who leave their sweatshirts on the school playground. But there are people of my ilk who tell incredible stories. That shouldn’t be overlooked just because a few dopes with working fingers, WiFi-enabled computers and partially functioning temporal lobes pass on rumors, hearsay and opinion-studded drivel (much like this) through the World Wide Web. FYI- during the fires or car crashes I’ve covered, I’ve never seen one of these “citizen journalists.”
The idea of a citizen journalist seems about a ridiculous to me as a citizen surgeon or a citizen lawyer. I’m sorry, but I don’t want someone removing a tumor on my optic nerve just because he was able to go out and buy a scalpel and some scrubs at the medical supply store. And I don’t want some guy who is halfway through reading “Introduction to Criminal Justice” to be defending me at my capital murder trial. Ideally, I’d like trained professionals, preferably with huge diplomas hanging on their walls, to be taking care of me in these situations. I feel the same way about journalism.
Simply because the Internet has democratized information doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t demand or that we don’t deserve the highest quality reportage. Or that any of my colleagues should be out of a job because some tinkerer is Twittering inanities and calling it news.
My legs are getting tired, so it’s time to get off this soapbox. I’ll leave you with one question: Could a “citizen journalist” do this?-
Lane DeGregory’s pieces on the gender transformation of the Largo, FL city manager
or how about this?-
Dana Priest and Anne Hull’s pieces on the neglect at Walter Reed Army Hospital
or what about this?-
David Gonzalez’s pieces on the new wave of Pentacostalism in New York City