Posted on April 29, 2006
Nobody cares what you think
An earnest young student described his plans to me last week: He wants to write a series of humor columns. Or maybe they would be entertainment columns. They might really be movie reviews. In any case, he would be telling us what he thinks about popular culture, you see? And if he puts these columns on the Web, it would be online journalism. Wouldn’t it?
Jonathan Last wrote:
Bloggers are forever telling us how easy journalism is, yet very few of them have ever really practiced it. Sure, they may have written opinion pieces that compare favorably to the work of Molly Ivins or Ann Coulter, but opinion writing is a tiny — and let’s be honest, inconsequential — corner of the journalism world. Real journalism — the practice of adding to the store of public knowledge by reporting news — is a difficult, thankless, and often unpleasant task. Bloggers want no part of it. Everyone wants E.J. Dionne’s job; no one wants to be Michael Dobbs … (The Philadephia Inquirer, April 23, 2006)
(In my blog, I don’t have to link to Ann Coulter if I don’t want to. And I can add that while I wouldn’t want to be Michael Dobbs myself, I sure would be proud if I could be Robert O’Harrow.)
Journalism professors like to joke around about how nine out of 10 students want to be Dave Barry. Only we’re not really joking … it sort of makes us feel sick, as in nauseated. It’s not that we don’t like Dave Barry. Who doesn’t like Dave Barry? It’s the idea that a 22-year-old who has never worked a day in his life and has never lived outside the state of Florida would think he could be Dave Barry, like, next week.
I think I should send all these kids a link to this essay about journalism by Dave Barry, so that perhaps they will realize that not even Dave Barry started his career as Dave Barry. My favorite little-known fact about Dave Barry’s journalistic chops is that he wrote and filed the first story about the bombing at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. I am not kidding. The guy is a real journalist, and that’s the point: You can’t be like Dave Barry unless you trek along a twisty path to get there. You can’t get there by writing. You get there by living and working and seeing the world.
And no, it isn’t “online journalism” to write on the Web! No, no, no. It’s not.