Tuesday, January 29, 2008

david simon on the (sad) future of newspapering

Other than sports and movies, I don't watch television. That said, after reading David Simon's remarkable piece in Esquire, I might have to start watching "The Wire." I dunno, people. The suits at the papers have to adjust, but there's something to be said for old-fashioned, shoe-leather, waiting-people-out kind of journalism. Fuck it. It's more than that. You can read the blogs (ahem) or watch the talk shows to find out what they're doing in, say, Washington, but you really have to read a paper -- and particularly a local paper -- to know what they're doing in your backyard. To be selfish, though, Simon gets to the heart of the matter when he writes this:
And so this was journalism. A scavenger hunt -- from A to B to Z on a patchwork of known facts and guesses. It was not the most important story I’d report on, nor my best work. There were stories to be written that would argue for social change, stories that might challenge the institutional status quo, stories that might win prizes. Many of them would be legitimate and some would be manufactured, and, yes, there is stuff in my yellowed clip book that creeps into those categories. But when I think back on what I love about newspapers, I think of sitting in that car, waiting with Bill Zorzi. For me, the religion was in the chase, the pursuit of accumulated fact and quote, the rush to deadline, and the arrogance of standing up like the village griot at the campfire and running down a story that hadn’t yet been heard. And then the next day, maybe, doing it again. For that alone, I can have no regrets. Nah, son, fuck law school. And fuck the M.B.A. I’ll never have. And fuck all that Chaucer and Cervantes and Proust I might never get around to reading. On a given day, I learn something that you didn’t know and then, my authority drawn only from scrawl on pages of a pocket notebook, I write it up clean so the rest of you can get your hands filthy with ink, reading my righteous shit. In the less fevered lobes of my brain, it was as pure as that.
Amen. Here's hoping the suits help this wonderful enterprise survive, because it deserves to.

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