Notes From A (Former) Newspaper Romantic

October 14th, 2010 · No Comments · Uncategorized

By Arthur Alpert

We interrupt my series of reports on the Albuquerque Journal’s sins against journalism because my eyes hurt.

Sorry, that’s not true.

What I mean to say is that I find the regular study of the Journal so dispiriting that I have to step away sometimes and refocus. The idea is to refresh and maybe get a new perspective on this gig.

And along came a Godsend in the Oct. 11 The New Yorker, specifically a lengthy report, “As the World Burns,” subtitled “How the Senate and the White House Missed Their Best Chance to Deal with Climate Change.”

Ryan Lizza, the magazine’s Washington correspondent, did a superb reporting job – I recognize the world he portrays.

As Lizza relates the sad story, a few Senators negotiated to buy the industry’s acquiescence to their legislation, simultaneously watching warily the party leaders, the White House and (in one instance) Fox News. The details and Big Energy’s price for cooperation mattered, but no more than did the individual players’ fears, idealism, ego, sense of self-preservation and willingness to trust.

Other than the bedrock belief climate change legislation is a good, Lizza dispensed with big, moral judgments. He favored facts (where possible) and plausible surmises to arrive at a very intricate tapestry.

It’s impossible to know if he got every detail right, but I came away confident that yes, this is how the system works. Pumped, too, about journalism.

Of course, there loomed the sharp contrast between his approach and the Journal’s, leading me to ask why.

I’m not certain, but Journal editors do use the newspaper to persuade us of something and perhaps that’s why they simplify the world. It’s either-or, good versus evil, us against them. That might explain why our statewide newspaper mostly caricatures how the world works. (Except, of course, when the daily’s best staffers draw a bead on reality.)

I was still chewing on the above when I opened a new book on the Washington Post.

“Morning Miracle,” subtitled, “A Great Newspaper Fights for Its Life,” by former WP sportswriter Dave Kindred, proved not just refreshing but uplifting. (The author admits up front that he’s romantic about newspapers and, well, I used to be, so we’re kindred souls.)

By alternating lively sketches of reporters, editors and owners with narrative, Kindred portrays the Post at its Watergate apogee and in extremis.

Most welcome was the reminder that some newspapers do aspire to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.

And, flashing back to the New Yorker piece, I thought it all begins with describing the real, complex world.

Refocusing accomplished, I’m ready to read the Journal again.

Tags: ·······

No Comments so far ↓

There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment