Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Advice for the Interns

So you're the new intern, eh?

You must be; you don't have that forlorn look of abandonment and soul-crushing despair everyone else in the newsroom has.

Listen up, jackwagon! Now that you've decided to intern at the newspaper, you're going to learn a few things about journalism that just might save your life in the field.

Yeah, I'm your drill sergeant, your mentor, your god. Now stop texting or I'll cut your thumbs off, slapnuts! This is serious! You want to be a reporter, right? Believe the public's got a right to know? Support First Amendment freedoms? Think journalism is an honorable and necessary profession?

Horse dung! Every word of it!

You know why people become journalists? Because they're too untalented to be novelists and too talented to be English teachers, that's why!

First rule of journalism is: Everybody hates you and nothing you write will ever be the truth. Today, everybody's a goddamn media critic. Doesn't matter if you crap Pulitzer prizes, someone somewhere will think you're a biased hack. In this business, like every other occupation, you're not going to please everybody.

Second rule of journalism: Politicians lie. They fib through their teeth, great whoppers of lies, massaging the truth like a 19-year-old Vietnamese prostitute touches her clients. These bastards have no qualms about lying their asses off and recanting their lies, even blaming you for misquoting them and spreading misinformation. So it's your job to catch them in the lie and expose them for the ethically bankrupt phonies they are.

Third rule of journalism: Devour all media, all the time. Read as much as you can, plug into every social networking site and blog your ass off. Stay connected to media and the world, because you don't want to be a bitter old fart who doesn't know what Twitter is.

Fourth rule: Develop sources in the area you cover. Make friends in city hall. Take a bureaucrat to lunch. Diversify your contacts. The more sources a journo has, the easier the job. Many people trusting you means more information flows your way. You'll be breaking stories and scooping the competition in no time.

Fifth and final rule: Have fun. Sure, journalism is an arduous climb up a shit-covered slope, but at times it could be rewarding. Writing stories about issues shaping a community helps these turnipheads understand their world. Sure, most of them are gawping hayseeds or cynical bumpkins, so consider yourself a missionary, brining the good word of factual information to the unenlightened minions.

To your critics, you're a liberal media elitist, a left-wing commie, a degenerate parasite and blood-hungry vulture. They will brand you these things, even if it isn't true, even if you're a right-wing Republican with pictures of Ronald Reagan on your desk. To them, you're just a lefty reporter who wants America to fail.

Want to know a secret? Put that damn iPhone down and pay attention! My secret is, I know something my critics don't. I know who I am. I understand my abilities as a writer and a reporter. I weed through all of the bullshit and sift through the disgusting chunks of smelly fecal matter to find the nuggets of truth, and distill those down to their clearest, most cohesive points, extricating the fluff and nailing down the important and factual.

The greatest weapon you can have as a reporter isn't a loaded Remington 700, although having one helps. It's your moxie, your chutzpah, your dogged determination. Refuse the word "no". Ignore defeatism and plow through rejection as though your life depended on it. Become a pain in their ass and cling to them unrelentingly like a barnacle on a ship. You're there to do the public's good, serving their interests, not a specific segment of the public but all of those unwashed, ungrateful bastards.

I'll leave you with the words of journalist Edward R. Murrow. You might have heard about him in class when you weren't stoned off your asses or texting your friends: "To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful."

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