We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Regular readers of Maggie's Farm know that I am a newspaper reporter by profession, at this point in my still-callow youth.
I doubt that I will always be one, but it's good enough for now. I don't need much money now, and I enjoy the folks I work with.
I will tell you the problem with reporting: Reporters feel inferior to other people. Other people - no matter how silly and foolish or corrupt - are the ones who are doing things in the world. We are just the observers, the scribblers. It doesn't feel manly. We experience daily narcissitic humiliation just by working, which even Ed Norton, who was proud of being a hard worker in the sewers, did not.
The fact that we are not doers is a constant, nagging source of ego-pain.
How do we try to deal with that pain? By thinking that we are the noble, essential Fourth Estate. By seeing ourselves as heroic, altruistic warriors, fighting power and lowly commerce. By picturing ourselves as mini-gods, looking down from on high on the actions of lowly, flawed humans. By insinuating our view of the world into what we write - to try to "make a difference." And by drinking too much. Trust me - our lives are dull, except for newsroom politics: I would feel more productive planning the sewers than sitting for three hours at a Sewer Commission meeting.
We semi-lazy, semi-glib, semi-cynical reporters all want to be players in life, but we aren't - and we know it. We envied the lacrosse players that we reported on, when we were in college: they were cool and we were not. We envy the doofus politicians, and feel flattered when they know our names. We envy the Sewer Commissioner, because he is doing something real in the world, and we are not. We envy people who build things and make things and make lots of money, and we try to find ways to rationalize feeling morally superior. We want to work for the New York Times, so we will be invited to parties instead of drinking at Rudy's. We secretly envy all people who do things, and wonder whether we really can do anything notable, or even normal in the hurly-burly world, ourselves. So we report, try to find fault, and try to build up our egos.
We all secretly want to be Woodwards and Bernsteins - to bring down presidents (preferably Republican ones, but that surely does not apply to me), and to be big celebrities instead of humble scribes whose work lines the bottoms of parakeet cages.
I know professors and teachers who feel the same way: who feel that they are out of the loop, or have taken themselves out of the loop, perhaps because of their personality type. If we sometimes behave arrogantly or wear bow-ties, or talk as if we believed we knew anything in depth about a subject, please understand that we are simply over-compensating for the castrating experience of not feeling fully engaged in life, like other people.
Thus when I see the big city reporters publishing pieces on classified material, and the like, I understand it completely. Reporters, in moments of weakness, will sell their souls, or their country, to try to redeem the sense of purposelessness of their lives. They want to be engaged actors, and not objective observers. In my opinion, that is reporting in bad faith, unless it is on the op-ed page.
In our newsroom, in our medium-sized, tired old New England city, we sometimes amuse ourselves with the New York Times, which many newsmen, regardless of political stripe, view as a political tool. We figure out what they leave out, what they bury on page 21, how they spin stories, and what they decide to cover. We howl over their lame corrections. They have become highly agenda-driven, with a socialist, multi-cultural, anti-Israel, anti-American bent, but will not admit it. And I am telling you why that happens - it's not just that they have a Leftist mission: it's about ego. They want to "make a difference" and they want to "feel virtuous" with other people's money - but without doing anything real other than typing on a keyboard. In other words, the NYT reporters are nothing more than full-time bloggers, who get paid and who kill trees. Our City Editor would kick our asses if we pulled the tricks the NYT does. He demands professional discipline, and no BS.
And it is a damn shame that great papers like the NYT have come to this, because reporting is necessary and important. But to do it right, for a long time, you have to be willing to accept a degree of humility and a professional sense of service, duty, and responsibility which is difficult in our ego-driven age. Like any professional, you must learn to put self, self-gratification, and self-expression aside to do the job right. You are not hired to change the world, but to report it as accurately and honestly as you can.
Writing for Maggie's Farm is my outlet - my effort to be a bit more in the world. But when I find my right place (someday everything is gonna be different) I will do some real things in the world, like raising a family and holding a real job - probably not worthy of the attention of reporters - and I will feel much better. Honestly, I might feel more worthy operating a backhoe, but I can't. I am a spaz with machines, and Bird Dog, the chain-saw king, will not let me near a chain-saw.
Good piece. Did and felt similarly in youth. But don't worry--reporting and the necessary skills, disciplines, and the ability to tolerate boredom and abuse, will help you whenever you get a real job and/or start a family. And do shun any vocation that may get you the attention of reporters.
I remember after I shifted gears from newspaper writing to work in politics. The first hostile headline and hatchet job on me gave me a whole new perspective on the press. Not to mention the effect on my father, whose business associates warned him that I had better not ever show my face in his former haunts again. I was lucky, other opportunities beckoned, and I cherished no delusions of grandeur about the body politic being the worse for my retreat. Ever since, I have relished anonymity. I like Bird Dog's expressed wish to stay masked and aloof or whatever it was he wrote... I hope to stay completely out of the limelight for the rest of my life...