It’s a brutal pursuit, this gathering of facts - a headlong dash into danger and indifference, a race around the region as if the very future of the republic hinged on a thirty second clip of an upended dump-truck. For nearly thirty years I’ve wedged my way into unwise positions, spotlighted the plight of the victors and the vanquished as desk-bound overlords critiqued my technique in real-time. There’s a million ways to make a much better living, but none that held my attention like the flickering blue screen inside my viewfinder.
I’ve learned a lot along the way: don’t trust politicians of any party, keep your head on a swivel no matter the backdrop, clean your plate before heading into dirty weather. Three decades of daily deadlines haven’t bought me a beach house, but it’s made me wealthy beyond measure in other ways. I’ve quizzed future presidents, hung out of helicopters and carried more beauty queens than most parade floats. Sure, I’ve cursed it all a time or ten, but never once seriously considered doing anything else with my working life.
I know lots of people with the same affliction. I can’t say I like them all. But drop in on any breaking news scene and you’ll find a puddling scrum of gadflies, philosophers and misfits. But for all their differences, they share one unifying trait: they are insatiable communicators, be it with a camera, a microphone or keyboard. Block their shot and they’ll rip your lips off. Obfuscate and you’ll make a mortal enemy. Utter the phrase ‘no comment’ and we’ll camp out in your yard and tell everyone you wouldn’t talk.
Such habits have never made journalists very popular and we’re totally cool with that. If everyone loves us, we’re not doing our jobs correctly. Lately though, it’s gotten out of hand. Elected leaders blame us for not adopting their spin, toothless rubes scream obscenities from passing pick-up trucks and people we once considered friends spread lies and distortions they heard in their own personal echo chambers.
Just this afternoon, some nut-bag with a grudge gunned down five newspaper employees, all for reasons no one’s ever gonna understand. But even a tragedy as unspeakable as this won’t stop us. It only strengthens our resolve and recommits us to our mission. So yell ‘Fake News’ all you want. It only emboldens us. I’m proud to be a part of the fourth estate, as imperfect as it is. Try to squelch us and our numbers will only multiply.
After all, a free press is a very large part of what makes this country great. Look it up in that history book you don't own. I'll wait...