SEAN Hannity and Alex Jones, two men who pick at American journalism the way small birds peck at the carcass of a pig, are both in legal trouble.
Myself, after 34 years as a reporter and columnist, I do not use the word “journalist” if I can stop myself in time. I believe in the crippled, nicotine-stained stained old newsroom joke which sayeth, “A ‘journalist’ is an out-of-work reporter.”
Alex Jones, who told a blood-smeared lie about dead children, will be dragged into court, to recant and apologize, as he has done before. Hannity, like Bill O’Reilly before him, will show you the great big lies a tough American individualist will tell just to hang on to the job, the fine suits and the makeup artist.
Neither one of these spider monkeys had any reason to be called a “reporter,” both of them being much closer to the homemade, hillbilly, gun-rights-for-Christ podcaster than to someone whose editor frequently says to him, “Do you have a source for this story?”
Ah, but sources are so yesterday. They belong to the newsroom of green metal desks and speckled linoleum flooring.
I am, of course, a columnist, both syndicated and for The Herald News, the newspaper of record in Fall River, Massachusetts. In the last few weeks, I’ve covered a recognition event for Vietnam veterans, a house fire and an event encouraging people to donate their organs after death.
For those who want to get a little closer to the pig’s carcass the commentary birds are pecking, here’s how to make yourself a reporter.
Get a newspaper job. Get a job on a newspaper run by people who actively discourage reporters from becoming celebrities.
Cover small-town or city politics. Listen to three-hour debates over the purchase of a stop sign, and where to place that stop sign.
Write the stop sign story and get a call the next day from an angry elderly woman, a lifelong resident of the town, who is incensed that you referred to the stop sign’s location as “Holmes Road,” when everyone knows it’s “Holmes Street.” Write a correction.
Carry a waterproof jacket in the backseat of your car in case you’re at an outside assignment and it starts to rain.
Learn that everyone lies sometime, but it doesn’t make you smart if you think everyone is lying all the time. They’re not.
Interview the mother or father of a murder victim within 24 hours of the killing. Reporters call this “the death knock.”
Know as many people as you can. Make sure most of them are not politicians.
At least once, get someone’s blood on you. I attended a car vs. motorcycle crash and stepped in some of the victim’s blood. “Look down,” a cop said to me as I left the scene. “You’re leaving tracks.”
Hang out with, sleep with or know at least a few people who are criminals, illiterates, ex-convicts, welfare recipients, immigrants, legal or illegal, or minimum-wage workers. The poor and troubled are not social causes, nor are they leeches or scum. They’re people. You can dislike them, but you can’t refuse to learn what they have to teach.
You are not God. The editor is not God. Conservatives aren’t God, and neither are liberals. Republicans and Democrats are not God. The readers are not God.
Truth is God.
Dion’s latest book, The Land of Trumpin, is a collection of his columns written before, during and after the last presidential election. It is available in paperback from Amazon.com, and for Kindle, Nook, iBooks and GooglePlay.
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