‘Journalism’ As a Totally Alien Concept for Writers

So Steve Lundgren, a long-time friend from the world of journalism, sends me the following query:

“Perhaps you can shed some light on this: Why do so many adventure and detective novelists adhere to the cheap stereotypes of reporters as bottom feeders bereft of ethics, conscience and good manners?”

Cliche, much? The modern misunderstandings of everyday journalism are baffling.

I spent 20 years in newspaper newsrooms, as a reporter, editor and columnist. And I honestly have no good answer to this question.

I know, for instance, that people would walk into the newsrooms from time to time and say (in one variation or another), “I think it’s time for a new career, and I don’t want to go to college for a degree or anything. I thought I’d try my hand at being a reporter.”

I’m relatively certain lawyers and accountants don’t have people walk in the door and say the same thing.

Here’s another variation on why journalism is so incredibly misunderstood: I recently started a best-selling thriller by one of the best-known, best-read authors in the business (no names). I was relatively OK in the scenes in which one of the protagonists, a New York Times reporter, acted like a crass, lying snot in front of sources. But when the author tried to actually create a front-page story, the thing he wrote was so weird, so ham-handed, so completely unbelievable, that I’m forced to believe the novelist has never read a newspaper in his life. (For instance, about 30 paragraphs in, the story jumps off the front page. Yeah. That’s generally where we put the jump. ’Graf 30….)

Why? I don’t know. I’d think writers, any writers, would be newspaper readers.

If he’d have put it in iambic pentameter, it wouldn’t have been less-newspaper-like.

Could a guy live in New York, write thrillers in New York, and never, ever read a newspaper article? Did no one at his publisher read the passage and say, “My. This is … a light opera, maybe? It ain’t a newspaper article. Wanna take another stab at this scene?”

I don’t  know.

Readers: What careers have you worked in, in which people seem have a strange and completely alien concept of the work? Surely journalism can’t be the only one.

About danahaynes

Dana Haynes is the author of ICE COLD KILL (2013), BREAKING POINT (2011) and CRASHERS (2010) from Minotaur and St. Martin's Press.

Posted on May 14, 2012, in Blog. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on ‘Journalism’ As a Totally Alien Concept for Writers.

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