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.