“All columnists should be beaten to a pulp and converted back into paper!”
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I laughed out loud Sunday night as I watched “Sabrina” for the first time — the 1954 version of the movie with Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn, of course, although I’ll watch anything with Harrison Ford — and heard character Oliver Larrabee spew the line above after the tabloids released another rumor about one of his sons’ romantic lives.
It got me thinking Monday about how negative the perception of the media not only is currently, but always has been. From cries of “yellow journalism” in the past to shouts of “faux news” today, people just generally don’t like reporters, or journalism as a whole. It makes those of us putting in an honest day’s work a little skiddish to brag about what we do for a living. We’re basically viewed like lawyers now, only with far less pay, a much less impressive wardrobe and phone numbers people can use to call and chew us out.
I can’t say I blame the public for its angst. Many media outlets often drop the ball on stories, reporting erroneous information simply to be the first to do it — Capt. Sum Ting Wong rings a bell — and they consistently show bias in what stories are covered. No newsroom is innocent, but I can tell you in ours, we’re honestly trying to get each story out there the best we can with the resources we’re given. Sometimes we succeed, and sometimes we struggle. We’re trying.
I’m not going to use my column as an apology, though. I’m proud of how hard our staff works, and I’ll just leave it at that.
When I first went off to college, I ironically had dreams of becoming a big-shot lawyer. I started with classes like Criminal Justice, hoping to spark that interest. I applied for and got my first work study job at the university’s law library. Everything was going great, until my own angst overruled my 19-year-old’s life plan.
Looking to complain about how the university I willingly chose to attend no longer had a football team, despite a history with one, I wrote my first column ever and submitted it to the school newspaper for fun. Editors liked it, asked me to write more, and I eventually (years later) became the sports editor of the school newspaper. That led to a change in major to journalism, and the rest up to now is history.
Little did I know back then that I’d be writing columns for a living, trying to defend the beauty of my craft to the same people I hope to inspire.
Trust me, we writers didn’t get into journalism to slam people, although it can be a byproduct of a subject’s own actions if warranted, and as previously mentioned, we certainly didn’t join the business for the paycheck either. We did it because we love sharing our thoughts with the world, and like teachers in a way, want to help inform our community members about everything important to their lives.
With that ideology comes that tragic caveat, though: We’re still a business, and we need to sell a product to survive. The balance can be downright nerveracking.
In searching for a positive quote about journalism to wrap up this column, I found a ton lambasting the field instead, from Thomas Jefferson’s, “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers,” to Mahatma Gandhi’s, “I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers.” I get it. I picked an unpopular profession.
Still, I can’t imagine being anywhere else right now. I’m at a desk, writing down my thoughts for a whole lot of people to read, and I’m getting paid for it. That’s a pretty sweet deal.
And I’m hoping that the newspaper I helped put together that this column is appearing in informed our readers about something useful or interesting that they can use or share themselves.
If so, that’s not bad for a day’s work, no matter what people have to say about it.
Patrick Ibarra is the managing editor of the Mountain Democrat.