Is anyone in journalism having fun anymore?

Posted on June 26, 2006 
Filed Under Journalism

William Powers of the National Journal asks a valid question. It seems we’ve all veered down the road of morosity or on the other extreme of utter flippancy. Get back to where you once belong, Jack. Let’s make whoopee.


“Journalism” is now just a synonym for “desperation.”

At one point in the report, Norman Pearlstine, the former editor-in-chief of Time Inc., floats the idea that perhaps journalists should be licensed. “Licenses help breed confidence in certified financial planners and chartered life underwriters, who tend to get more respect than people who simply sell life insurance,” says the report, paraphrasing Pearlstine.

Before you vomit, know that when a Carnegie moderator asked how many in the room liked this idea, “not a single hand went up — not even Pearlstine’s.”

Phew. They weren’t serious. And yet the air is full of notions like this, if not quite so explicit. The best way for the news business to dig itself out of the hole it’s in, many believe, is for it to get more professional, more indubitably respectable, more serious.

All of which will efficiently kill off whatever fun remains in this journalistic life, and sometimes I think there’s not much. Reputation matters, and pink slips are tragic. But the beating heart of the trade, the true source of all our best energy and the reason people have always paid money for our work, has nothing to do with earning a membership card or riding some financial gravy train to 401(k) nirvana. It’s about playing around, doing mischief, having adventures, taking risks, undermining the powerful, and chortling darkly the whole time.

Read William Powers, Making Whoopee, National Journal, June 23, 2006. before the link dies.


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