Booze, grudges and paranoia: what makes a journalist a journalist

Jobs are meant to include “occupational mythology,” expectations that are perhaps more commonly taken on than commonly found in a given position. Many with those positions relish in embodying these traits: rock stars use drugs, athletes use women, lawyers love the gray and green in their lifestyles. It’s why politicians kiss babies and go door-to-door.

These are ways we characterize someone, which makes it a hell of a short cut to being regarded as a rock star, an athlete, a lawyer or a baby-kissing politician.

Men and women become journalists, I have experienced, because they think their task is important, they are bearing light on what needs light most: from Washington D.C. to school board meetings. Journalists are self-righteous, unfailing in their belief what they are doing is good and just and unappreciated.

Of course, by journalists, I am speaking quite generally and referring almost exclusively to the breed of journalist that came from the urban print daily mold. I made the distinction in an earlier post.

They are independent, competitive and insular because sources won’t help, other media don’t stop, and no one understands.

Back in January, Slate magazine had a great article on this phenomenon, particularly in the newspaper field:

The journalist likes to think of himself as living close to the edge, whether he’s covering real estate or Iraq. He (and she) shouts and curses and cracks wise at most every opportunity, considers divorce an occupational hazard, and loves telling ripping yarns about his greatest stories. If he likes sex, he has too much of it. Ditto for food. If he drinks, he considers booze his muse. If he smokes, he smokes to excess, and if he attempts to quit, he uses Nicorette and the patch.

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Reader Response for Babette Josephs story

THERE IS SOMETHING THRILLING ABOUT READER INTERACTION. In my short experience with professional journalism, readers rarely contact reporters about their story without a strong reaction – either an article is of great importance or is trash.

Getting a big story above the fold on the cover of Inquirer local section, like my story on state Rep. Babette Josephs was on Wednesday, will bring in some phone calls. It’s refreshing to see old forms of reader interaction still can work, and unsurprising the calls ranged from complimentary to insulting.

On the good end, one woman – whom I can only picture with hair curlers and face cream on a stoop of a Passyunk Square block that hadn’t yet been flipped – referred to my article as “excellent.” She talked to Babette until she “was blue in the face.” The sentiment this woman, and a couple other calls gave was that over the representative’s incumbency since 1984 – Josephs is the General Assembly’s longest-serving female member – she had lost her mission. “She’s a disaster now,” the woman told me.

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Brian Tierney, Sam Zell: journalism needs the business attitude

WITH THE 300-YEAR HISTORY OF NEWSPAPERS IN A SEEMING STRANGLEHOLD, plenty of wildly successful business men have gotten involved – all certainly interested in claiming a portion of history, which reviving and settling the newspaper ship would merit.

Public relations firm namesake Brian Tierney got all sorts of publicity when he led a group of investors in buying Philadelphia Media Holdings, taking control of the Inquirer and the Daily News, though he promised to stay out of editorial decisions.

The work he is doing is the same as Sam Zell, who gets more attention for working on a grander stage – majority owner of Tribune, which owns a handful of the countries largest newspapers – and being in worse fiscal trouble.

But like Tierney, what he is doing is what the industry needs. Bringing a truly business-mind to a self-proclaimed public service and, simply, trying something, anything. Just making moves – at least they’re getting attention, an important first step.

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Historic newspaper circulation data: how many fewer newspaper readers are there?

Okay, we get it, newspaper circulation is down. Everyone is ditching print for online.

But, I get the feeling it is a bit exaggerated. I’ve already posted here that we’re simply living through what we’ll someday call the newspaper bubble, the market swinging the industry nearer to a healthy environment.

I would love to really investigate the rise and fall of newspaper circulation numbers through generations, but the numbers are kept fairly private by those who have the best access, groups like the Audit Bureau of Circulations, a nonprofit that was formed in 1914 by publishers and advertisers wanting to provide the industry regulated, reputable circulation data – and they aren’t giving it out to me.

So, we tend to mostly guess from reports in newspapers that provide some information. I did find some great numbers from the Newspaper Association of America, though the data is only up to 2003, perhaps before industry fears went public and the newspaper bubble had clearly burst. After that date, the NAA makes you pay for the information.

Rather than forking out the $50, let’s just crunch what we have.

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The 10 journalists I respect, admire the most

I am working in Harrisburg. State government reporting is, you might say, the junior varsity of Capitol reporting. Pennsylvania does feature the largest full time state legislature in the country, but Harrisburg is not D.C., even I can admit this.

So, there are those who point to Washington D.C. as the home of the world’s greatest reporters – covering the most powerful force in the world certainly requires a deal of talent and influence. Even those in Harrisburg take covering this big State Legislature very seriously, understandably so.

But there are elements to journalism that I can’t help but think matter more to me, interest me more, that serve a great value, particularly as the newspaper industry needs to move towards community stories.

Government oversight is a fundamental, but here, in no particular order, is a list of the journalists I respect and admire most outside of the pressure cooker of U.S. Capitol coverage.

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History will tell: the great newspaper bubble of the 20th century

When our grandchildren read about newspapers, 2006 will be the bellwether year, when daily circulation dropped by nearly 3 percent and 3.5 percent for Sunday papers, the worst fall in the modern era.

Because, of course, in 50 years, beyond novelty, nobody will be chopping down trees and shipping them to be processed, milled, refined, shipped, designed, cut, printed and shipped to be read and then thrown out.

Of course, newspaper circulation was slipping for more than 20 years before then, but history forgets the details.

Look, the reality is that Baby Boomers will really be remembered in history books as the generation that lived through the great newspaper bubble of the 20th century. The bubble blew and burst awfully quick; newspapers are just seeing a slow-cooked version.

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The Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association: a brief history

When I am done at the end of August, I will have reported with top-flight state political reporters from the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Allentown Morning-Call, the Harrisburg Patriot-News and the online-only subscription service Capitolwire.

What unites them all is that they are members of the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association. The nearly 115-year-old organization doesn’t do much to promote itself because it is mostly an informal collection of members from a struggling industry, so I didn’t know much about it when I got here.

I have learned plenty and thought many might be interested, too.

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philly-com.JPG – the online home of the Inquirer and the Daily News – launched a new redesign last week.

Our man Daniel McQuade of Philadelphia Weekly’s Will Do blog has some thoughts.

Well, well! went a redesigned and… well, they got rid of the changing front page via Javascript, so the redesign is an immediate success in one area. Reader Christopher emails: “The site has totally gone retro 80’s pastel with geometric shapes and magic marker headlines. Feels like Miami Vice.” That kind of feels right, though — remember, this is a company that pays both Michael Smerconish and Christine Flowers, who must turn in their columns in magic marker.

My friend Chris Reber says it “looks good, but isn’t that the same design as Stereogum?”


No surprise the comments on the redesign’s announcement are full of hating.

Your kidding me right… did you have the website redesigned and outsourced in India? It looks like a 12 year old without any perception and or understanding of color theory or interface usability built this site. And what is up with your header and that bouncing “” logo? And for the love of god whahy did you use a beige textured wallpaper in your background it look very 1996ish. One word comes to mind “FAIL”!

Of course, that is fairly excessive. Agreed, it doesn’t scream professionalism or the Internet home of the third oldest daily newspaper in the country, but then, the two newspapers’ individual pages are more traditional. The Daily News didn’t change at all – from what I can see – and the Inquirer didn’t change much, though, to be honest, what changes they made seem to be a step backwards. No dominant image and no displaying other new media. Three columns and I am drawn more to their left-most advertising than their content.

The complications of a student journalist

For the next month, at least, I am a student journalist.

I have been a proud staffer at The Temple News serving the community of Temple University in Philadelphia for four years. While I have reported for the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Business Journal and elsewhere, there are few places I’ve learned more than in Room 243, the newsroom of The Temple News, and otherwise in my functions as a student journalist.

There are so many complications to it all.

Particular to working at a big university in a big city, I am inevitably competing with professional journalists, without seeming reactionary or amateurish. Competing with the very people whom I hope will want to hire me. At a school like Temple a great deal of our coverage is high profile enough to merit attention from the faces that make Philadelphia the fourth largest media market in the country.

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Why I am everywhere online and you should be, too


Understand, I take relish in few things as much as I do in being an old head, knowing little about technology, what is new and fresh.

The trouble is that I am modestly pursuing a career in media. I graduate from Temple University in less than three months, with no job, little direction, and few goals. My chances for success just got smaller.

So, it was in early December 2007, with my fears and worries just beginning to rumble, that I launched this Web site. It was, as I first described it, a modest foot print in what, I assumed, would someday require a great deal more structure. The world’s dependent on the Internet is not lessening. This is the best, most effective way to market oneself.

I wasn’t going to blog. I promised myself I wasn’t going to blog. But then, there wasn’t much chance I could keep steady readership to develop a community (hello!) but also to increase my searchability on Google, (currently tops for “christopher wink” and second for “chris wink“) -It doesn’t help that someone of quasi-fame shares my name, as Chris Wink is the founder of the Blue Man Group.

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