Editor’s Note: We first met Brian Hickey in the go-go ’90s, when the Internet was young, print media was very much alive, and so were we. Since then, our paths have diverged — Hickey’s moved on to become a balls-to-the-wall true school journalism gun for hire, and we’re doing, well, whatever this bullshit is — and as you can imagine, we’ve often locked horns, but always stayed bros. Last year, Hickey suffered a brutal hit-and-run accident and has since made a recovery that has been nothing short of miraculous. (You can read about it in this piece in the most recent issue of Philadelphia Magazine.) One of the strange (and, yes, perhaps expected) side-benefits of Hickey’s recovery is that it’s made his balls saltier than ever. Here’s where Philebrity comes in: Knowing full well that if he drained those salty balls in any of the other publications he writes for, he’d get canned straight away, we offered Hickey a place to, uh, take care of all of that. And to our shock and delight, he graciously accepted. After the jump, Hickey goes off on how, even though maybe print’s death is its own damned fault, all of this gravedancing is not cool, man. Not cool at all.
At the risk of sounding like a Whitesnake devotee – which we all are deep-down inside – allow me to declare that, “Here I go again.” This might not be the only road I’ve ever known, but as this site’s papa can surely attest, nobody –- OK, maybe people who rape capuchin monkeys and similarly offensive death-penalty opponents –- riles me up more than gleeful fans of the looming newspaper-less world.
When I was gainfully employed full-time at the weekly paper in Old City, anytime I read a post here that I interpreted to that effect, I’d IM something to the extent of “Fuck you, Joey,” or “Meet me at the McDonald’s, over there on Federalsburg Street, so I can hurt you in the face for disrespectin’ journalism.”
I meant everything, too — well, not the face-hurtin’ stuff, except in that one totally-hammered voicemail. But I’ve always been compelled to stand up for print journalism like Adam Baldwin’s Linderman did for Chris Makepeace’s Clifford in the epic playground-bully tale, My Bodyguard. And I could not – nay, WOULD not – remain silent when Moody (Matt Dillon) came for writings’ lunch pail.
Even though I totally rocked math on the SATs, English got me through high school despite a varsity “problem with self control” letter. It also enabled me to leap full-force into drink and smoke at the U of Del., figuring, “Yo, you got mad skillz, so the jobs are heading your way regardless of whether you go to class.”
Who cares if the salary is paltry to the tune of $17K for my first gig in South Carolina? It was a calling; not a financial venture. Plus, seeing people climb trees so they can see past a police truck to witness what the dude who just jumped off Trump Plaza looks like in the street pays unimaginable dividends. (The answer: Not as mangled as you’d think. I know this because I laid down to see under the car. Plus, it was the fifth or sixth jumper in a month and a half.)
I had undying respect for what newspapers represented: A well-written-and-well-funded (despite-an-obviously-questionable-funding-stream) check on government and crime, with side orders of sports and entertainment, that people just can’t get out of 22 minutes with the pretty-TV-newspeople or not-so-pretty-radiofolk.
Well, that was 1995. In resume-speak, the ghost of four full-time-writing gigs past.
And, unless Popeil convinces advertisers that papers far exceed to efficiency of the 5-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator or produces a way-back machine to brainwash publishers of dailies to say, “Maybe we should collude and all charge for web content before it’s too late,” Nell Carter (God rest her soul) has reached the encore.
So why do I tell you all this on a rainy Thursday? Three reasons:
1) Should print journalism and newspaper-staff sizes and qualities (girth is good, right?) continue to get forcefully and deeply pounded (get the parenthetical underpinning?), the lunatics of our nation will thus have free reign to do as they please at all of our expense. (Put another way: This nation dies without quality journalism in a way very similar to descriptions I’m reading in The Road.)
2) To explain why my feelings were strong, and,
3) Why I want to meet Jon Stewart at the Federalsburg McD’s to hurt his fucking face.
Don’t get me wrong: blogging has its hold on me. Hell, I update my site pretty much daily and my brother-in-law is toiling to get my own dot com up-and-running so I can start reporting with text and video rather than just prattle on about that dipshit Arthur Kade for hours on end.
It’s just that I take more pride in freelancing columns for the Metro (and, sporadically, the Inquirer), stories or book reviews for PW and producing cohesive videos about print stories for philly.com (which I haven’t been able to do since I got run over, but still). The reason: I love having to back my facts up in print stories. There’s an obligation to get it right before it hits the streets and if you come up short, shame be upon you. And, let’s face it, except in rare cases, it ain’t like that online; pointing that out is the best way I see of tactfully dissing the direction storytelling has been forced to take.
Oh yeah, Stewart, face-hurting.
I read a former-print-guy’s Facebook update ironically enough that The Daily Show dug into the New York Times. It wasn’t to report/factcheck their stories as I’m sure they normally do, but to, well, rape a capuchin monkey. From paidcontent.org:
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
“Wednesday night, Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones paid a visit to the New York Times building. NYT executive editor Bill Keller offered himself up as a very amiable, if awkward, straight man:
Jones: Tell me about your love for this creaky old rag.
Keller: It’s always been one of the higher aspirations in the business to work for the New York Times. These days, we’re a little bit like the last ship afloat; we have all these lifeboats floating around underneath us, and people are dying to clamber on board.
Jones: But your lifeboats are made of paper, right?
At this point, Keller vainly struggles for an answer, but quickly recognizing he’d only dig a deeper hole in his proverbial “lifeboat,” he opts for silence. Later, Jones turns the old riddle “What’s black, white and red all over?” on its head, telling Keller it’s not a newspaper, but the NYT’s “balance sheet.”
Jones, he’s just a hired hand, so he gets a pass, and so does Keller, whose passion for the craft is better than his lifeboat-reference was good. What pissed me off was the sheer joy that Stewart, who increasingly plays holier-than-thou these days, seems to take in airing a report. (I know, “Whoa, Hickey, don’t be so sensitive. It’s not like you expect to go back to newspapers full-time.”) Especially at a time when nobody knows how investigative reporting will get done in the future. This scares me, since that’s what I value most.
You know how newspaper owners and publishers didn’t, for one second, look ahead and figure out how to ensure survivability in a changing world? Yeah, well, do you reckon many bloggers are sufficiently trained to report out stories on-the-scene, get quotes from appropriate officials, research the background and write up a solid, factually-ironclad account of malfeasance, corruption or what a jumper looks like post-jump for a penny-a-word?
I mean, I probably would on occasion, but I’m just a freak. And, contrary to popular opinion, much news doesn’t happen at night, when the freaks come out.
Print folk gotta stop knee-jerk blaming bloggers, too, because they’re not at fault for dropping journalism’s pulse. I blame those who didn’t see the obvious and take action until it was too late. They’re the ones who enable typists from dancing on my passion’s grave.
Well, I gotta go do a little Wii Fit before heading downtown to grab Phils/Sox tickets and watch Kade in a fashion show. Wait. Has journalism has been my Moody all along? I mean, people are already emailing in anticipation of my Kade-account that’ll be posted before the morning paper’s hit my doorstep. Shame they’re not paying customers.
– Brian Hickey