Saturday, December 17, 2011

What is a journalist?

From the great Harry Shearer, who once performed it on his radio program Le Show and emailed it to me on request. It's been sitting in my inbox for six years, and I thought I'd post it because (a) I want to get it out of my inbox and (b) it sums up my chosen profession better than anything I've ever read. For maximum impact, imagine the words are being spoken by Casey Kasem over some sappy inspirational background music. (That's the way Harry did it.)

what is a journalist?

he’s a hard drinking, soft spoken, burn up some shoe leather, sit on
his hiney sort of son of a gun who’s seen it all before, and can’t wait
to see it all again.

a journalist is someone who gets shot at in a war zone so he report
back material that can’t be broadcast because it might be too

a journalist is someone who reads teleprompter better than anybody, and
writes better than the guy who just won the pulitzer.

Journalists like:
a bigger news hole.
free food.

journalists don’t like:
cramped press facilities at major news events.
media whores.

journalists like to know how does it feel, and what’s the mood here
now. journalists don’t like to know how
the social security system really works.

a journalist is often found at news conferences,
presidential visits, crime scenes, hospice vigils, and the sites of
snowfalls. a journalist is seldom found advertising his
services on a website for gay escorts.

journalists sometimes make too much money getting out of the studio too
seldom so they can mingle with other journalists who are resentful
because they never get into the studio at all.

journalists can be anchors, but never
sails. they can be reporters, or just repeaters. a journalist looks
down on celebrities until the day he
becomes one.

a journalist spends too much time covering a story that gets too little
space so it can be skimmed by a reader who has too little time.

journalists can’t resist: miracle puppies. children trapped in wells.
killer bees.
journalists almost always resist: stories with three
or more sides , computer terminals without a nexus
account, angles that might make their colleagues
think they were flaky.
a journalist will fly halfway around the world to
stand where a tsunami took place, and he’ll stand
in freezing rain for two hours to point out that it’s

journalists are more curious than anybody, attacked
by everybody, and lent money by nobody.

a journalist will share a quote, but won’t reveal a source. a
journalist thinks the first amendment is the
only one the founders really meant.

what is a journalist? a journalist is someone who earned pretty good
money telling us what was really going on in the world, until he
realizes he could earn better money by telling us about the social
lives of the people who earn really great money telling us fairy tales
about the world.

a journalist knows: who’s got the best rolodex.
who’s got the best satellite phone circuits.
how much backlight he needs.
a journalist doesn’t know: where to find krygystan in
on a map. where to find the smart people in a small
town. how you’re supposed to fit a five minute story into a 90 second hole.

a journalist is just like the rest of us...except he’s
more tenacious, lazier, sloppier, got better hair,
and does his best work in the comfort of the herd.

what is a journalist? next time you see one, just ask him: how does it

(c) 2005, Century of Progress Productions. All rights reserved

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