It pains me, but I have taken a serious hiatus from blogging. Why? It’s hard to say. My day job has drained me. The fate of journalism scares me. And it feels impossible, without giving up absolutely everything, including a personal life, to seek original content in my spare time, not just spin what’s already been spun. I think you all, the people who visit my blog, deserve some original stories. Not more spin.
Since MTV ended, I have had a ton of offers to write/produce for free. I get it. I’m young in my career. I should be willing to work for free or little cost. But seriously? It degrades what I’m trying to do: prove that real journalism, real information, can’t be found solely at the keypad on my computer.Sure, I can build sources, I can research, read other perspectives. But I can’t go out there, attend a hearing, get reactions at a rally…get a soundbite that actually informs the direction of a national dialogue or changes the perspective of a student, a voter, a President.
While working full time for free, hustling for stories and uploading all the time to iReport, HuffingtonPost and TrueSlant sounds great, I am a pragmatist. And I’m not about to jump ship, leave my day job, without knowing who is steering us to a better place. To a journalism that doesn’t deny the possibility the Internet brings. To a journalism that admits many jobs will be lost but many more created. To a journalism that wants to embrace web 2.0 to inform the public to make better decisions. Why, with all that is at stake, are we not there yet?
One of the first times I interviewed Helen Thomas, I told her I considered her the first “blogger” in the White House. I don’t think she was expecting the words that had come out of my mouth. As background, this was back in 2007, when Bush was still in control, and the word “blog” was a sure shot to get my mouth washed out with soap in the wrong company. But Helen listened, and then she asked, “what do you mean?”
I went on.
“In a way, you are. You aren’t trying to kid anyone. You are going for the facts, but you are also going for reactions – and you are putting yourself in the question. Your peers are totally shocked. They don’t know what to do with it,” and thought to myself, “except ignore you.”
A while later, I was at a happy hour with a bunch of people who worked at ABC, NBC, CNN, etc. A senior White House producer from one of these major networks asked me about Helen. I answered by asking her why people in the Press Corp didn’t follow up on Helen’s questions, the ones that were so OBVIOUS, like, Mr. President, are you certain Iraq has WMD? Why do intelligence reports contradict? Do we torture? You know, the basics.
The Producer’s answer? “She makes us all uncomfortable.”
Uncomfortable? What a waste of a press pass. Someone who seeks the truth makes the Press Corp “uncomfortable.”
Why does this matter?
As important as the niche, bulldog blogs have become inside the Beltway, mainstream press is still mainstream press. People from Indiana to Idaho are still busy, focused on raising families or farms, paying bills or the doctor. They don’t have time to do their homework. So they turn to comfortable brands, like network and cable news. The same places that proved in the run up the Iraq war, that they were comfortable reporting what they were told, and uncomfortable looking for more.
But we all know what asking tough questions in recent years has brought Helen. Animosity from her peers. A cold shoulder from a President. A status as a “has been.” Between you and me, she does care that people attack her work. But she also tells me this, “You don’t go into this business to be popular.”
Perhaps that is what we are all afraid of. Not being liked. Or even better, not being rich. Honestly? I’m past it. This democracy is in need of truth. It is in need of a financially vibrant system of press. One that can be trusted, competitive, and open for debate. And above all else, run by people who get the fact that the Internet and technology will make journalism better off. More informed. More conscious. More like Helen.