In the wake of Eason Jordan’s resignation/forced firing, Steve Lovelady, the managing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review’s CJR Daily, emails to Jay Rosen:
The salivating morons who make up the lynch mob prevail. (Where is Jimmy Stewart when we need him ?) This convinces me more than ever that Eason Jordan is guilty of one thing, and one thing only — caring for the reporters he sent into battle, and haunted by the fact that not all of them came back. Like Gulliver, he was consumed by Lilliputians.
This from the self-proclaimed “resource for all Americans who want the best possible version of their free press.” But hey, at least we know there’s no arrogance or bias in the MSM.
Lovelady’s intemperate rant, coming from one of the would-be high priests of the cult of “journalist” credentialism, immediately called to mind Andrew Ferguson’s 1998 Time essay on the journalistic temperment:
Nobody believes me when I say this, but journalists have been the single most insecure group of human beings since God, as a gag, invented the Chicago Cubs. Nobody believes me when I say this because (I’ll concede) it seems absurd. Peter Jennings, whose haircut costs more than your monthly car payment, insecure? Diane Sawyer, whose haircut costs more than Peter Jennings’ monthly car payment, unsure of herself? All those reporters who race to the scene of an airplane crash and shove their tape recorders in the faces of the survivors and ask them how they feel–those rude and ravenous news vultures are really quivering Jell-O molds of unease and self-doubt? Even Mike Wallace?
Yes, yes, yes to all of the above. This isn’t a plea for sympathy; along with their self-doubt, journalists are given to insufferable vanity and sanctimony. And if you’re like most Americans, you despise them for it. But look a little closer, and see the newsreader’s eyes widen when the TelePrompTer starts to stutter, or see the slight tremble in the hand that holds the notepad when the survivors tell the reporter to mind his own damn business. Look a little closer, and then the jig is up. Somewhere in the dim recesses of the journalistic soul lies the horrible suspicion: this is really a pretty shallow–and maybe unseemly–way for a grownup to make a living.
As a consequence, American journalism makes extravagant gestures of self-justification. Undergraduate journalism schools, for example, take four years to teach a skill–writing a news story–that most people, even undergraduates, can learn in a week; this perpetuates the fiction that journalism is a profession like lawyering rather than a trade like plumbing.
We see you beind the curtain, Lovelady and company, and we’re not impressed by either your bluster or your insults. You aren’t higher beings, and everybody out here has the right–and ability–to fact-check your asses, and call you on it when you screw up and/or say something stupid. You, and Eason Jordan, and Dan Rather, and anybody else in print or on television don’t get free passes because you call yourself “journalists.”
You obviously don’t like that reality, but it is reality, and you’d better start learning to live with it instead of tossing ad hominen insults at your critics.
We’re not going away. Deal with it.