Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Just Write the Truth

I had one of those “why am I still a journalist” moments the other day. Seems that a certain former councilman read my blog and didn’t approve of a previous post where I ripped him specifically and politicians in general.
He called my rant “childish” and said, “If this is what you think of elected officials after 14 years, then you need to get into another line of work, brother.”
He wanted to lay a guilt trip on me.
I mean, journalists are supposed to love the hell out of politicians, right? I actually have a shrine to George Bush in my room I adorn with candles nightly.
Okay, I'm being sardonic there.
Thing is, when I started reporting, I didn’t harbor these impressions. I fawned over politicians when I was in my 20s – a kind of mystique and admiration of those in power. It was this idealistic fascination with politics that made me interested in political reporting. I attended the Congressional inauguration in 1995, covered nearly every congressional race since then and many state and local races in my area.
I was mesmerized and hooked on the legislative process, something no sane person would care to freely admit.
But over time, the wonder and awe faded. The honeymoon was over. I realized that it wasn’t about a sacred exercise in democracy – it was just political parties raking in dough and churning out bland, boring men in suits who are safe and marketable.
I haven't seen mavericks or trailblazers. Year after year campaigns that aren't hip-deep in bullshit are rancor-filled battles where the winner does their best to demonize their opponents without looking like an asshole.
I explained to the offended ex-councilman that this is why I was angry at "elected officials" who talk about progress and patriotism but act like mongrels wrestling each other for scraps.
It's not about democracy or elevating public discourse. It's about money and fear.
Why I still work as a journalist is a mystery to me. Maybe I'm numb from men in suits and neckties who claim to know so much but say and do so little to actually improve their constituent's lives. Maybe after hearing so much spin and propaganda, I've become acclimated to people who don't want to hear facts or truth but have their opinions validated. Maybe I'm like a businessman who hires hookers to burn cigarettes on his arm - a complete masochist hungry for the pain.
Is that why I'm still here?
This above former official once worked as a journalist over a decade ago, but chose politics over reporting. I'm the one who weathered politics from the public side of the dais. I didn't get invited to fancy parties or feted by muckety-mucks from Trenton. I don't have the connections he has, nor do I want them. I just open the notebook, ask the questions and write.
I used to feel like I'm just stuck in traffic, waiting for the light to change.
Recently, my father and I talked about local politics and my newspaper. He told me, "Just keep writing the truth."
I guess that's why I'm still here. If the press didn't exist, these "elected officials" and governmental bureaucrats would get away with murder.
I'm trying to just write the truth.

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