gall and gumption

Friday, May 12, 2006

Holey, Holey, Holey

"Journalism is a priestly vocation," said a teacher of journalism from a certain prestigious Graduate School of Journalism with which I have some acquaintance, let's call Combluia shall we?.

This is something to ponder. Please excuse me for a while, I must go and ponder.

[Several minutes pass. Sound of flushing.]

Well. I've pondered.

1) If journalism is a priestly vocation then that means a certain section of New York's Upper West Side must be Vatican City. Seems reasonable enough.

2) The priests of this particular church like to recall, with fond irony, their wild days in the anti-Vietnam war era, when they were sowing their journalistic wild oats with all sorts of pranks, and learning their craft. They thereby also establish their liberal street cred, and, as a bonus, establish the principle that anybody who criticizes them from a "further left" position (it's a crude label but work with me) is -- unlike the mature priest at the podium -- an irresponsible deluded loon who hasn't quite grown up.

3) The priest of journalism learned from learning his craft to be serious -- or at any rate, to take himself seriously. The priest will tell the story of the old geezer who taught him his craft. Safely dead and unable to sue for slander.

4) Objectivity, the doctrinal core of all we do, is hwat makes U.S. journalism so every special. The best best bestest in the world in fact. American journalists thought of it first. No one had ever had that idea before. It is an idea unique to U.S. journalism -- it is the one sacred special mystery! The Europeans, they do not understand this objectivity, this subtle thing, this spiritual discipline. It demands sacrifice.

5) At this point the priest will illustrate the high tariff that objectivity exacts from the souls of its followers.The journalist is a Promethean, tragic figure, who fetches back the objective news at the risk sometimes of having his own guts ripped out. (O! Tragic hero journalist!) To illustrate this point the priest of the church of journalism will tell a story or two. At least one of them, strike me blind if I lie, will feature 1) a starving African orphan or 2) the parent of three children who died in a fire. What? You are against orphans? I might have guessed.

6) Anybody who questions either 1) the idea of objectivity or 2) the execution of it by the priesthood is a Rube. there are rubes of the Right, and there are the shrill and uncivil Rubes of the Left, who act like rejected lovers. "I never said I was interested in a committed relationship! They're crazy!" Which, coming from a friendly toothless old ex-radical is a great comfort.
And futhermore, he explains, if we let these Rubes take have their way with us, we'll end up like Europe (Just the newspaper business, not to worry -- he's not threatening us with single-payer healthcare or the metric system). This rabble of Phillistine hecklers, who cannot enter upon what it is to objectively know in the priestly way, will leave us as backward, news-wise, as the English with their BBC or the Germans with their Reuters. Benighted.
The priest of journalism draws himself up really tall and says, "Did you know that the New York Times has a Corrections page?" Yes. If the crime victim's wife's name is misspelled, or the city councilman's dinner was placed at the wrong restaurant, or the name of the TV actor's high school is incorrect, the Times will rush to correct the error. Objectivity barely acknowledges any other kind of error. That requires a higher order of reasoning only permitted to the choicest few, the holiest.

7) But, winding down, the journalistic priest is optimistic about the future, notwithstanding his shrill, uncivil. categorically irrelevant critics. He's optimistic because all these fresh new students keep showing up. New people, not like those old critical people. And -- here he must beg your indulgence -- his own kid is showing signs of journalistic talent and enterprise. Here you may expect a long anecdote about the kid's latest project. The boy will go far. I dunno, I feel sure of it.

You know, this reminds me of something I saw in the minutes of the Santa Rosa City Council. A man, one of the public comment regulars, got up and told the council that the reason he was not making as much sense as he usually did was that his brain had fallen out through a hole in the back of his head.
Obviously, this man's brain had not fallen out of the back of his head.
If it had, he would have sounded like a priest of journalism.


At 12:31 PM, Anonymous carulane said...

You should publish this someplace. It would be funny to see it in the New Yorker, where so many of those people from Cumbloia end up. Have you heard the poop about their writing program hiring writing teachers who don't write, but happen to have friends in the department?

At 6:22 PM, Anonymous JSinSB said...

Mizz P,
Fleg, late of SB, now of SF, showed me the Jane Eyre blog. Because I'm such a dope when it comes to anything computerish (and many other things as well, like love for instance, but let that be), I can't find it now that I'm home, but the piece reminded me of one of my favorite lines ever, from Villette, in which Bronte has Lucy refer to Rubens and his paintings thus: "Let Peter Paul Rubens wake from the dead, let him rise out of his cerements, and bring into this presence all the army of his fat women..." Whatever else her faults, and, to be certain, they are legion (how could they not be, growing up with that pack of kooks, raised by her crazed minister dad on those lonely old moors), that comment reconciled me to CB forever.

At 10:28 PM, Blogger Kia said...


I believe I had a couple of those when I was there.

welcome. And thanks for bringing all of Rubens's fat women. Those would be mostly naked fat women, by the way. Keep coming back.

At 6:09 PM, Blogger Chuckling said...

I can relate, having gone through a similar indoctrintion at a prestigious midwestern journalism school, though they were probably more sincere than the profs at Columbiuoia, the old timers with the Pulitzers or the numerous testimonies on free speech before the supreme court really did have high ideals and conveyed them with great spirit. Of course anyone who bought what they were selling didn't have much of a future in journalism, but nevertheless, it was good.

But in what now seems like a harbinger of what our golden ideal'ed journalism community was to become, our Dean was caught masterbating in a public toilet in Florida and was thereafter known as the Dean of Urinal Jism. He died shortly after. a sad broken man, but his spirit went on to inhabit the elite of our profession, and may his sorry soul find redemption, I pray, as well as the poor millionaire journalists up there on the upper, as they say, west side who have followed his spiritual lead.

But enough of such pretentious piss, I hope you stick with the blog, I've always enjoyed your writing.


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