Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Great Moments in Journalism

Back in yonder days when I was a wide-eyed student of journalism, convinced I could become the next Jancee Dunn or Joan Didion, I spent hours trying to perfect my turn of phrase. It didn't matter if I were writing for a journalism class or the ASP, I still wanted my writing to be good enough to capture the attention of my reader. I wanted to make them laugh, or cry, or hell, even pay attention (it was a college paper I was writing for, after all).

Eventually, I decided that I wasn't cut out for the Fourth Estate, a decision I've practically never regretted. While there is much that I don't miss, there are a few things that I get nostalgic for, particularly the 2000-2001 editorial staff of the Albany Student Press, helmed by Jeremy Morissey, and edited by a wide variety of nuts, myself included. I don't miss chasing down writers, worrying about deadlines, figuring out stories to assign, and having do this with a 12-15 credit course load (which also involved a large bit of reading and writing, too).

There are things that I miss that are lost to the ages - flopping on the old, lumpy, stained couch in a dusty room that smelled of old coffee, chewing on pizza from Paesan's, and listening to a rock radio station that I almost don't remember the call letters for, talking to people I still wonder about at times. More than anything, I miss one special part of the camraderie of being in that newsroom: the special blend of sarcasm, gallows humor, and most of all - making fun of our competitors.

Like any good budding journalists, we always had newspapers around. We read the Times Union and whatever that weekly alternative paper was called (I want to say it was The Metro) as well as the NY Times (you have to read the Times, of course). Usually it was for ideas, and to see what they were covering and how, but every so often, someone would yell out to the group to stop what they were doing, turn down the radio, and pay attention, because they'd found something we all needed to hear. This piece of an article was seldom singled out because it was good. In fact, I don't think we ever shared anything that was good, truth be told. Mostly, we found something that was so fantastically bad, so wonderfully awful, that we had to share it with the rest of the class. I'm only mildly ashamed to admit that our own writers weren't immune to this, either. The shame is only mild because we'd usually catch stuff like this before it went to press, hopefully eliminating all traces of the inappropriate humor that would cause us editors to choke on our pizza and wind up with soda up our nose.

Recently, I discovered that I was not the only one who missed such behavior. Gawker (everyone's favorite snarky kids in the back of the class) have started a new regular feature they call Great Moments in Journalism where they select (and invite others to enter their discoveries) of the worst of the worst. I didn't follow it so much at the beginning, but now, I'm a loyal fan. Through the years, the internet has reunited me with many things I thought were long gone - friends, cartoons, cheesy themesongs, and other memories I'd thought lost forever, and it's now done it again. I may not be able to get back to that specific place and time in my life (and thank God for that), but at least I get to revist the most deliciously snarky part.