Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Mitchel Stevens’ Guide to Employment and Presentation

Editor's Note: The following column is part of an anonymous weekly humor column chronicling the struggle of a new, young journalist out in the working world. You may find the author's previous posts in the archives. --The Ed.

I woke up this morning with a bit of a shiver going on. If that’s not a sure-fire sign that Fall is here, then I don’t know what is! Aside from it being an acceptable time of the year to sleep in Tompkins Square again, Fall is great because there are always new jobs popping up—like that Village Voice Ad on Craigslist that mysteriously disappears and reappears.

What a lark, I say. But larks aside, the worst feeling in the world is being ill-prepared for pitching a story or going presenting yourself in the morning. I generally look like I’ve been shit-kicked from sea to shining sea most mornings. And while most journos look, act and sound like they’ve got the bubonic plague and a liver that runs on rot-gut, they also have one other special trait.

They’re employed.

And they might be robots.

All the Billy Wilder/Kirk Douglass pipe dreams I had as a young undergrad J-school kid weren’t too influenced by Bill Murray or Johnny Depp’s Hunter Thompson caricature. Hell, even Hunter Thompson’s own caricature wasn’t that appealing considering the stories of the Gonzo Godfather’s body literally breaking down. As far as I knew, to look like a journalist you had to have the bottle of bad scotch in the lower right desk drawer, a fedora near the typewriter and a pack of Lucky Strikes that magically never empties but always looks crumpled.

To be a real Big J journo you drink to kill the nerves, heighten the sense and dress like living yin-yangs in black slacks and white dress shirts. Few days worth of stubble, a cigarette dangling on your lip and a sneer for the veneer of complacency that society has with itself.

That, my friends, is a Journalist!

That also is what a Journalist isn’t.

Most journos are reformed alcoholics. Most of the films are right: the chainsmoking, the drinking, the celebration for a hard-hitting story or waiting next to the printing plant for the early edition. But now? Now the newspapermen are talking heads as much as they are writers.

You need to look clean for the camera, the Gawker Stalkers and pissed off interns who will gladly turn your hangdog hangover into blog gold. Journalists have to be at the gym when they’re not on the beat, at a desk, hammering away on ancient Power PCs—if they’re a shoddy bi-monthly—or brand new iMacs—if they’re a high-powered daily in Midtown.

Shit, even if you work for Newsday.

But journos are lazier now. They’re blogging, vlogging, podcasting, iChating, AIMing and on Skype. Well, technically, only the guys at Wired still use Skype. Even then, it gets broken out for nostalgia's sake.

The old style journo has been phased out in favor of more “stable” and “clean” writers who you can bring home to Momma and not have to worry about crazy things like alcoholism or drug dependency or completely fabricating stories and writing horrible prose because they’re unimaginative and start off most profiles still about where they’re eating with the profile subject and what the subject is eating and—

Oh, never mind. It’s happy hour at the Blarney Cove.


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