Deadly Jobs

July 16, 2014 — 11 Comments

bad newsIt’s bad enough not liking your job . . . but being allergic to your chosen profession? That’s absolutely miserable.

And that’s what happened to one American journalist. Despite the myriads of new avenues for journalism, newspaper writing remains a primary context for the skill.

I actually earned my first degree in journalism. Editorial Journalism, via the University of Washington’s School of Communication. But I was never cut out to be a member of the Fourth Estate. (Ironically, I ended up belonging to the First Estate, but that’s another story.)

Journalism is a vocation important to the wellbeing of society. Good journalists are vital to society’s health. Those who spew vitriol, not so much.

Apparently a reporter for a Baltimore newspaper recently discovered—after thirty-eight years in the business, that he’s allergic to newspapers. Not their content, their composition. Specifically, he is allergic to pine resin which is used to make newsprint ink.

I assume he’s making a “quality of life” transition now to digital news sources.

Journalism is a broader field than many realize. Our first thought usually turns to newspaper “reporters.” We have often considered them to be objective relaters of events. Of course, complete objectivity is something that is beyond human grasp. Everyone approaches the “news” with their own biases and a worldview that shapes their perception of “facts.”

C.S. Lewis has a fun essay which touches on this. It’s called “Private Bates.”

We must get rid of our arrogant assumption that it is the masses who can be led by the nose. As far as I can make out, the shoe is on the other foot. The only people who are really the dupes of their favourite newspapers are the intelligentsia. It is they who read leading articles: the poor read the sporting news, which is mostly true.

I recall some debates back in my college days when others attempted to persuade me that objectivity was not only possible, it was the standard practice of reporters. That myth has long been exposed, and I try to be content with those who strive to be as fair as they can.

In a 1955 letter, C.S. Lewis is even more blunt than in the previously cited essay. He tells one of his regular correspondents, “I never read the papers. Why does anyone? They’re nearly all lies, and one has to wade thru’ such reams of verbiage and ‘write up’ to find out even what they’re saying.”

One reason journalism receives so little respect today is because people confuse reporting with editorializing. Reporting, of course, is just the facts. (Admittedly, even these are subjectively perceived.) Editorializing, on the other hand, is offering one’s unbridled opinion.

For the latter to masquerade as the former is criminal. But to accept the fact that honestly offered “opinion” is just that, is fine.

After all, one reason you’ve taken the time to read this post is because you appreciate reading gems from C.S. Lewis . . . and you don’t mind wading through the “opinionated” verbiage of this humble columnist to find it.

11 responses to Deadly Jobs

  1. 

    *laughing* Well, it was worth it for the C.S. Lewis quote, I must say. :)

    I had a stint in the field of journalism for a couple of years. In fact, you can probably still find some of my columns over at the Washington Times Communities. I enjoyed it immensely, but it isn’t what I want to do forever, especially since the internet seems to be turning even the most prestigious news outlets into tabloids, and everything is hype and page-views nowadays, with content squeaking in at barely third-place.

    • 

      I wrote a number of articles during college for a local weekly. The transitory nature of print news always made me think “so much effort into something people immediately dispose of…” I considered magazines a more lasting place for something worth writing. That, of course, was my personal prejudice. I value good journalists–so few and far between–more today than I ever have.

  2. 

    I love your opinionated verbiage! I also was journalism major….and that morphed into English teaching for a time…then history and media, social studies etc.

  3. 

    I have always thought that journalists should at least put some of their biases up front, something like who they have voted for in the last 3 presidential elections. At least then we will know where they are coming from.

  4. 

    Back when I worked on the high school newspaper, our teachers taught us to be as objective as possible. We did several features on issue-type things, and they wanted us to present several views. We had to be very careful to make it clear when we were quoting a source (directly or indirectly). They were very intent on us not letting opinions stray into news articles, keeping them for editorials. Of course you can’t escape the reporter’s bias–right down to which facts are actually reported on–but nowadays I don’t think reporters even try to avoid editorializing in articles. I’ve noticed in recent years that reporters are tending to use adjectives that I would relegate to “yellow journalism” (although I can’t think of an example right now). This applies both to the newspaper and to radio.

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