‘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?”
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.