Journalistic Flashback

Old fedora felt hat with a press card

Old fedora felt hat with a press card

I’m listening to a group of sombre men. I’m jotting notes and wearing my ‘I’m concentrating’ expression, a technique which involves doing long division in my head.

‘We need people,’ she said, ‘to act like journalists.’


‘Can you do it?’

There was an audible quiet, then. The kind that comes after the boss asks who’ll pet-sit his chihuahua. The truth is that I can do it. The truer truth is that I can do it easily because I used to do it for real. But the truest truth of all is that while I can do it because I used to do it, I hated every single second of doing it when I did it. I was clear about my decision.

But then she upped the ante. ‘We’ll give you 500 Koruna.’


So now I am listening to a bunch of speakers with a bunch of other journalists and (I suspect) some other make believers.

As one of the speakers goes into the history of the mall, I slip into a flashback.

After college, I moved back to Langhorne, Pennsylvania, and sought work as a journalist. I had about twenty clips in my portfolio, an AP guide, and was ready to take on all the excitement of small-town journalism. After landing a freelancer gig at a local newspaper, I was sent on assignments that one would expect a novice reporter to get.

Fast forward to me spending a great deal of my mid-twenties at zoning board meetings, school meetings, and environmental safety meetings. The mind-boggling dullness I experienced is too much to relate in detail without fear of boring someone to death. There were two-hour long discussions on the disposal of grass clippings, and an impromptu symposium on the desperate need for monkey bars in a school playground. I never realized the role that roof length played in the average Langhornian’s life. Our patience was on occasion rewarded by moments of ethereal excitement, like witnessing a fistfight between a hydrologist and a geologist over the controversial issue of well-depth.

It only took a short while to realize that I did not enjoy any of it. Some of my fellow journalists took it in with gleeful excitement, ready to speed home and write up the story. While I wanted to be one of them, I just couldn’t get myself there. I did not care.  I usually went for pizza and wondered where my life had gone wrong.

Moreover, I had no journalistic instincts. The others seemed to have a jewel of a question or a follow-up, and I’d sit there writing as quickly as I could manage. Any questions that came to mind were completely unimportant and superfluous. If I’d interviewed Deepthroat I would have reported that he was into sugar cookies and Robert Redford films.

The marriage between journalism and I just wasn’t meant to be.

So today, as the 40-minute presentation on the modern mall begins, I am an audience to these flashbacks. On the bright side, I do owe my checkered journalistic past a debt of gratitude. Getting into journalism allowed me to learn more realistic rules of writing. It also forced me to realize that I should focus on a kind and style of writing that I enjoyed doing. Because until then I wrote what I thought I should be writing. Also, it gave me the opportunity to perfect my patented ‘I’m concentrating’ expression.

So the flashbacks are aided by positive results.

Plus I know a lot about wells and monkey bars.

Comments are closed.