Don’t get me wrong, I will always love journalism. The feeling of being in a newsroom on deadline day is a drug that requires an extra special kind of rehab.
But after awhile, I got to the point where my patience with newsroom journalism had reached its end. I kept running into folks that seemed to have forgotten everything (and I do mean everything) that they learned in J-School and were content to allow themselves to be twisted like a pretzel to keep advertising revenues and subscriptions flowing.
And don’t get me started on the fact that I always seemed to get the one editor, usually a female, who lacked self-confidence, and seemed to have a problem with me because I didn’t do the same.
One of those editors, who shall remain nameless, was the person I thought of when I was watching Fox News’ Chris Wallace interview former Vice President Dick Cheney this past Sunday. I specifically remembered a conversation that I had with her that became strangely relevant to this particular interview.
When I came to my last newspaper job from the one I had left, I was a much different person. Having to take a different route home, check under the hood of your car for Klan-planted bombs, and watching as police came by your house every night to make sure you made it into the house tends to do that to you. My bullshit tolerance no longer existed and I didn’t really care who knew it.
Anyway, I had this editor who was, to put it frankly, a little too “Desperate Housewives” for me. She and I used to go knuckles on a pretty regular basis. (She also used to have this nasty habit of yelling at me which almost got her dragged around the newspaper’s parking lot face down by her hair, but I won’t get into that.)
One day, we got into a discussion about one of the municipalities I covered. Apparently, one of the township councilmen didn’t appreciate the fact that I was covering some of the more ignorant shit that was going on. Mind you, this was a guy that would occasionally say the most ignorant things possible in front of a live microphone, but that didn’t stop folks from calling this particular editor and telling her that I was unfair.
I make it my business to get both sides of every story I do whether I believe both sides make sense or not. But what this clown wanted was deference. I don’t do deference when it comes to journalism. Facts are neither Republican or Democrat. They’re simply plain, old, garden variety, facts.
When I explained this to this particular editor, she told me that I needed to learn how to “kiss a little ass”.
Now if you are easily offended, please skip this next section. I don’t want to offend anyone, but sometimes when someone has pissed me off to the level that this woman did, things come out. Having delivered this warning, please feel free to continue reading.
Because I’d been a journalist for a lot of years by this point, I understood that in order to get information, you need to kiss a little ass, I told her.
However, I continued, the problem with you is that you don’t seem to know the difference between kissing ass and giving head. Giving head is a much more intimate act that I really have to like you a lot in order to perform. Since it is obvious to me that this is what you want me to do for these people, and I don’t like them that way, we’re kind of at an impasse.
That I didn’t get fired that day still amazes me. But while I didn’t get kicked to the curb then, it did show me that it was time for me to start looking for another way to do what I love that wouldn’t lead to my having to get rid of all of the mirrors in my house.
As much as I hate to admit it, the main thing that I got from watching the Cheney/Wallace interview is the conclusion that quite a few folks in the journalism business seem to be laboring under the same confusion as my former boss.
I can understand that in order to get the chance to talk to Cheney after he’s heard the news that Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed a special investigator to take a much harder look at the Bush Administration’s torture policy, you had to kiss a within reason amount of ass. This was a pretty big “get” for Chris Wallace. Everyone who used the footage had to give Fox props for getting it.
But Wallace took the wrong turn at Cheney’s hip bone and ended up somewhere he shouldn’t have. I understand that you had to be really, really, nice to get that interview, but do you have to pretend he’s your boyfriend in order to keep him talking? Geez!
What makes this even sadder is that it was a Wallace doing it. Chris Wallace is the son of Mike Wallace of “60 Minutes”, a man so terrifying that everything from “Saturday Night Live” to “The Far Side” has parodied his ability to find the truth, no matter how deeply you try to hide it.
What’s up with your kid, Mike?
While I can understand that you have to follow the rules of your workplace, you have to draw a line. Even if you work for Fox News.
It might be time for Chris Wallace to realize this.
Or if he chooses not to, it might be time for him to make it less obvious.