I’m staring up at my panel of Transmetropolitan on the wall above my desk, in which Spider Jerusalem is in the process of kicking down a door, his big boot extending past the bottom of the frame. “I don’t have to put up with this shabby crap!” he says. “I’m a journalist!”
I had a T-shirt of this made for pluces years ago and am seriously considering getting it done again for me.
It made me think just now about my journalist heroes, though, heroes that have made a difference, whether in real life or as characters. The real ones of course are Woodward and Bernstein, Seymour Hersh, the gonzo crowd. The characters are people like Spider Jerusalem and Logan Cale (Dark Angel) – underground figures who blog, who use pirated bandwidth to get the message out: the bastards are corrupt! I guess that’s one of the hopes I had for indymedia, but few of us are doing our own investigative research and publicising it. We report on protests, we provide our own spin on corporate news.
Instead, when I teach journalism, I still have to teach ‘objectivity’ as a goal, that it’s about balance and never to put your own opinion into the story, even though the Tom Wolfes and Hunter S Thompsons of the world so famously put themselves in and made their stories so much more vibrant. There’s a difference though, in the way they did that, and the way my students stumble over what is reportage, observation, as vibrant and intense as they can make it, and what is anecdotal, personal, their own bias or their own connection to the thread of what they’re writing.
I want to teach journalism as the pursuit of truth over the pursuit of balance. I want it to be about the ideals I see when I look at the International Federation of Journalists or Reporters Without Borders. I want it to shed light into dark corners and bring out the stories of those who have no voice.
I don’t think I’m ever going to be one of my hero journalists, although I can try. I think I can provide a space for such things in some way and maybe I will write something one day with one of those kinds of characters, who will inspire someone to become one of those heroes.