Sorry to say I don’t have any sympathy for The New York Times reporters who went on strike to protest wages, working conditions. Whatever.
In fact, I continued to play Wordle, despite pleas from my former fellow reporters to stand in solidarity with those poor wretches at The Times.
The reporters of today are not my people. Not even close. For starters, some seem to think you can work from home and actually gather real news. Phone interviews are an occasional necessity but a poor substitute for the real thing: looking into someone’s eyes and checking their body language to see if they are telling the truth.
Furthermore, today they often resort to using “unidentified sources.” Nameless, faceless people who allegedly know the story behind the story but in reality have little connection to the truth and more to the reporter’s own agenda.
Finally, unless you are out there in the real world – meeting sources and talking to people in the business – you will never figure out what the news is … until you’ve been scooped or the “bad guys” have gotten away with some nefarious activity again.
Note to today’s reporters. The story you are writing is not about you. Not about building your brand. It’s about ferreting out and reporting what a series of interviews have led you to believe is the truth.
I was a reporter for nearly 30 years. And still think like one. I was also a reluctant member of the newspaper guild. Back then, as it is today, the guild was worthless. I’m convinced it supported mediocrity, which is why we received mediocre wages and benefits.
I would show up for work at 8:30 and leave at 6:30 or later. One of my fellow reporters once told me I was giving him and others a bad name. “I really don’t care what you think. I’m not slacking off to make you look better,” I said. I was cheeky in those days, too.
My favorite beat was state government. We were housed in “shacks” in the lowest level of the Indiana Statehouse. From there we had easy access to the Indiana General Assembly and the offices we were assigned to cover.
At one point, a former statehouse reporter started showing up and hanging around the shack. He wanted back on the beat; I’m not sure why. It was tough and demanding. As deadline hour approached, he would hover, reading our stories over our shoulders and jingling the coins in his pocket.
After several weeks of this assault, I couldn’t take it any longer. “Either find something productive to do or get out of this office,” I yelled at him one day when the coin noise was so bad, I couldn’t think. He was a nice guy but a worthless reporter. Thanks to the newspaper guild, we made exactly the same salary.
I haven’t been a fan of unions since those days. I’m sure they served a purpose at one time. And maybe they do today. When I think of the newspaper and teachers unions, I haven’t a clue what that purpose is.