Bill Knight column for Thurs, Fri, or Sat. April 13, 14 or 15
Another ex-newsroom colleague passed on, the White House Correspondents Dinner is this month, and the current Oval Office Occupant calls the press the “enemy of the people.” So I updated this 2008 piece an international editors group published. Acknowledging “That’s Baseball,” by Hall of Fame announcer Ernie Harwell …
A guy clipping a friend’s obit – that’s Journalism. So is the pair of young Capitol Hill reporters cranking out stories until a corrupt official resigns. It’s America, Journalism; an epic poem, a play, a nation’s portrait – remade constantly. It’s the New York Times and a hometown weekly, USA Today’s sports section, and births and deaths in countless newspapers.
There’s a man in Monmouth who remembers a story he read by a courthouse reporter or a kid in Kewanee who clipped a piece by a newswoman who took risks. That’s Journalism. So are subscribers calling for extra copies of the paper with something about a neighbor in the military.
It’s teachers phoning newsrooms complaining about typos, and a photojournalist giving a high-five to a violinist or gymnast after a first solo or balance-beam routine.
Journalism is “the first rough draft of history,” it’s said, a spirited sprint to record facts and feelings. It’s also an art and a craft to convey moments. Many are noticed – heroism or failure is seen, cheered or booed, and hopefully understood. Some become numbers; others memories.
With Journalism, democracy grows. The only race that matters is the race to deadline. The creed is the AP Stylebook. Color is the comics on Sundays.
Journalism is a foreign visitor asking about the late, great Carl Rowan or Molly Ivins, Hunter S. Thompson or Ruben Salazar. How could America produce the likes of Randy Shilts and I.F. Stone, Vincent Chin and Margaret Bourke-White? Or the First Amendment, or the Newspaper Guild?
It’s Sy Hersh exposing atrocities, Herblock drawing editorial cartoons, and Henry Stanley searching Africa for Dr. Livingstone. Journalism also is the critic lecturing a painter about perspective, and a scientist trying to write a letter to the editor.
Journalism is jazz without music. Math without grades. Video games without violence.
A woman can’t recall the color of her husband’s eyes but she knows charts for the Dow Jones, the Consumer Price Index or her favorite new tune. Journalism is a tip, then confirmation; desk to deadline to press time; download, upload, post.
It’s the flash of email alerts and feeds from distant keyboards, humming like a huge engine fueled by and driving information. Journalism is a sleepy carrier or smart-aleck editor; an old-timer whose scoops increase every time he remembers the past; a reader celebrating a crook’s conviction, a company’s profits or good crop prices by clutching the paper with a “Woohoo!”
Journalism is the persistence of Ida Tarbell or Ida B. Wells, the brilliance of Mike Royko, and the exploits of adventurers Nelly Bly and Richard Harding Davis, Marguerite Higgins and Floyd Gibbons.
Journalism is Tradition written in skinny notebooks, Chagrin in missing a story, Courage in revealing veterans’ lousy treatment, Humor in Dave Barry or “Shoe”, Amusement in the puzzles and other features that help hard news go down easier, and Resolve: going with what you have and working on a follow-up.
Journalism is a noisy newsroom where hopes and feelings run like relay teams or political candidates. It’s the endless lists of names in race results – from tracks or voting booths.
It’s Spotlight and His Girl Friday, the Daily Planet and the Daily Bugle, Walter Cronkite and Bill Moyers, Edward R. Murrow and Heywood Broun, beneath headlines or on picket lines. Journalism is interns – with experience no bigger than the lumps in their throats – trying for a dream. It’s veteran scribes, too – tired old hands of 40, praying to stay with the work they love. As complex as the American spirit from which it benefits, it’s a trade, business and, sometimes, a faith. Journalism isn’t a job description, it’s said. It’s a diagnosis.
Through centuries, Journalism has extended from James Boswell and Ambrose Bierce, through Marvel Cooke, Joe Galloway, Gene Roberts, Pete Hamill and Amy Goodman, to nameless reporters at innumerable statehouses and cop shops. It’s Reuters and Rolling Stone, Clarence Page and Bloomberg, Red Smith and correspondents killed by terrorists.
Lives are given for Journalism. Value it.