Monday, January 21, 2008

Personal Thoughts

“Sometimes I wonder if I'm the person I was born to be, if the life I've lived really is the one I was meant to, or if it is some half life, a mutation engineered by loss, cobbled together by the will to survive."
Anderson Cooper, journalist

All day I have been thinking about my life’s occupation. Lately I have been wanting to be a reporter/writer, again. Sunday morning, I read the LATimes book review about William Vollmann and his latest book “riding “Toward Everywhere," which is an account of his adventure as a slumming hobo.” I had a week’s vacation planned when I was in my early twenties to jump trains with the managing editor of the local newspaper where I worked. We never did it. I don’t recall why, but I am truly sorry we didn't. The reviewer called Vollmann an intrepid cultural interpreter. Also, yesterday morning in the NYTimes was an article on Jimmy Breslin. It talked about his style of reporting and it named many of peers who are now dead such as Norman Mailer, Murray Kempton, George Plimpton, and Arthur Schlesinger. Saturday’s Wall Street Journal featured an opinion piece on Fredric U. Dicker, state editor for the New York Post, who doesn’t let politicians get away with their usual lies and half truths. Finally, I started reading Anderson Cooper’s “Dispatches from the Edge.”

In some respects Toner Mishap is my opinion page outlet for not following my heart, but my wallet, not that I am doing so great, but my career choices have been slightly more lucrative than being a local reporter somewhere. I still have a fantasy of working for some local newspaper in my golden years. I suspect I have too much of an independent, contrarian, cynical streak to appeal to a local readership, so you're stuck with me.

Tuesday I go to court regarding the posts about my experiences as a juror, so even blogging I get into anxiety causing situations. Writing can be a dangerous and costly occupation, if you offend someone. Breslin was beat up badly by a mafia member of the Lucchese family. On The Mark called me early at the office the other morning and highly recommended that I take down the post that wrote, which was just a quote, but he thought I was asking for trouble. I removed the post. I will use the quote again shortly I have no doubt. I have deleted another post a few months ago that had to do with the CEO of a once major mortgage company, after the newspapers reported that he collected millions of dollars in bonuses and stocks, but the company was going to lay off thousands of employees, I asked how could he sleep at night.

There is certainly a chilling effect on writing if you are not careful. For my own good, I think I will just stick to Toner Mishap and attempt not to aggravate the powerful and litigation minded, as best I can.


Anonymous said...

On the Mark says: Ahh, I knew that review of Vollman's book was going to get a deep reaction from you after I read the first graph about the train hopping. You would definitely be a Breslin or Royko or Stone type of reporter, and I suspect that one day, still, you will be.

The Misanthrope said...

OTM, thanks, well, someday is now since I consider Toner Mishap my little opinion page in cyberspace.

Jack said...

so you're stuck with me.

It feels like forever already. ;)

The Misanthrope said...

Jack, What? You didn't realize you were already in the first circle of hell. ;) Actually, going into year four of doing this is almost like forever.

Janet said...

I went through a brief period where being a reporter appealed to me. Then I realized I enjoy writing for writing's sake, not being under any restrictions or deadlines.

BTW, I responded to your comment on my blog, too.

alice, uptown said...

Court? So much for freedom of cyberspeech -- did you even know the powerful and litigation minded were reading you? In a perverse way, it's quite a compliment, albeit one that reminds me that Big Brother has way too much time on his hands, or too many hands in the air for our time.

As for me, I will be bolting from Wonderland from Jan. 28 to Feb. 11. If you plan to be in these parts after that date, let me know. (I would have emailed you, but your address is lost in cyberspace.)

Let us know, if you can do so without further intervention from whatever powers-that-be, what happens in court. Is it like Vegas? What happens there, stays there? Isn't it usually a matter of public record?

Once upon a time I was a reporter, but I hated interviewing people to ask questions when I didn't care about the answers. Too much legwork -- or phone work, in those days. And my idea of what made for interesting news never seemed to be what my editors wanted to hear.

Now I hate reporters who want to interview me and send out press requests wanting complete answers by email. If I'd wanted to stay in the reporting game, I would be the one taking notes. You want my opinion, you're going to have to write it down, with my caveat that I spent 10 years in editor land and misquotes will not go unnoticed.

But I'm just cranky that way. Screw with my quotes, and it will cost you. All press is not impress once you've been on both sides of the business.

(Definitely in the mood for time off from Wonderland.)

Teresa said...

As someone in old media who is currently in a very uncertain employment situation—with coworkers who have been lucky enough to spend their entire lives doing this but now find themselves too old to change careers and too young to retire—I have some, I think, understandable ambivalence about the industry. I've never loved a job more, and I'm dearly grateful for the opportunity I've had to work even as a low-level editor, but having sacrificed higher income potential to work in that dream industry only to find even my meager circumstances threatened? I'll have to tell you whether it was all worth it at game's end.

The Misanthrope said...

Janet, nice to see you comment here again. I tend to have similar feelings about writing.

Hi Alice, I agree journalists don't seem to on their game as much anymore. If W had been president in the '70s would he have been able to hold on to the job or would he have had to resign?

Hi Teresa, once the ink gets in your veins it truly never leaves. I am worried about the state of journalism and its survival. The LATimes is the most recent example. I may have to cancel my subscription before long.

Dusty said...

For the most part, all Mainstream Media is now owned by huge corporations. That means its about the Ben Franklin's to them, not telling the truth or keeping us informed.

Why else would they keep an idiot like Paris Hilton or Britney Spears front and center instead of reporting about things that affect us or our lives? I did a long rant on this at my political blog recently:

It is in their best interests to keep this 'forever war' on terror going..and that is downright pathetic.