The ‘romance’ of journalism.

Saturday, September 30th, 1995

I’m part of a generation who came of age during and immediately after the Watergate affair, and in fact, was one of the few people in my Grandview Heights, Ohio high school who actively criticized the government’s handling off the war in Vietnam, the treatment of civil rights and antiwar protesters on our nation’s college campuses, and, in general, the secrecy and duplicity that I saw in our president at the time, one Richard M. Nixon.

Nixon’s downfall, you may remember, was not due as much to the efforts of protestors as it was to the dogged efforts of a handful of reporters, particularly those of The Washington Post. Standing up to the administration’s intimidation, harassment, and miscellaneous illegalities, the people from the Post, quite simply, did their jobs. They found out the truth, and they reported it clearly, plainly, without hype or fanfare. The people from that era of the Post–especially their editor, the legendary Ben Bradlee, who, in his own curmudgeonly way, stood up for a set of values and ethics that I found courageous and appealing.

Bradlee and the Post were a big reason why I went to journalism school–and because I wan’t alone in those feelings, j-schools’ admissions skyrocketed post-Watergate. How many of my fellow students enrolled in fulfillment of the romantic image of a ‘crusading investigative reporter?’ Um…I dunno. All I can say is that the ethic of discovering the truth and telling it objectively has always been something I held in high esteem. For the folks who do this every day, it can be anything but romantic or fun, and Where We Are Now, in a culture where reading has become devalued (as has spelling–but don’t get me started), in a business environment where newspapers and television news operations must be profit centers first and purveyors of journalism second, if at all–we may well have descended a long way from the heights of what journalism can achieve. Instead we have non-journalism: we spend an hour watching Barbara Walters talking with Christopher Reeve. We watch local newscasts full of gimmicks and fluff. We read newspapers full of flashy design which wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t surround a content-free void.

And into this era comes once again the voice of Ben Bradlee, in an autobiography called ‘A Good Life’, and it reminds me once again how good–and how much a force for good–journalism can be.

New England, again.

Monday, September 18th, 1995

Hello from Atlanta, where things have finally begun to cool down enough to create at least the expectation that fall will be a delight. Sammy and I have been off on a quick trip designed to get the most out of the early signs of autumn.

We flew to Boston on a cheap Delta flight and rented a cheap Avis car; we drove up the Maine coast, turned west and cut over to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Took the car up through some beautiful scenery that had just begun to change fall colors, drove up Mount Washington in the Presidential Range, followed the Connecticut River to its headwaters on the New Hampshire/Quebec border, drove north into Quebec listening to arguments over the seperatist question on CBC Radio, and saw covered bridges and small Catholic farm towns along our route. Got to Sherbrooke P.Q., turned south and drove along Lake Mephremagog, crossed back into the states at Newport, Vermont, and headed down into the Green Mountain state. Dined in Cabot with old friends from my days at The Country Journal (a very small newspaper–no, not the magazine of the same name), stopped by my old radio station at Goddard College, breakfasted well at The Horn of the Moon in Montpelier, and dined well in Burlington. Dropped down state route 100 (the traditional fall foliage route), picked up the Connecticut River again down into Massachusetts, and made our way around to Interstate 495, which we took to down by the Cape on a sunday night. Next day, we headed out to Cape Cod, where we spent the day and night having fun on a relatively unpopulated vacation spot, and we finally pulled back into Boston to spend a day with Sammy’s friend Kelley, who has renovated a large former elevator factory in Cambridge into cool homes and artist’s spaces. Phew! We cram more into seven days than most people cram into..uh, ten days, maybe.

I want to do my part to help you experience Bob Page-mania. Yes, it’s true. Reports are that Mr. Page has been in the recording studio most of this week and is all but done with his next CD, which for fans of Bob’s distinctive boogie-woogie blues piano, is good news indeed. Bob’s first CD, Poor Man Shuffle, was critically well-received, if not a commercially big success (that may well be because he records on a small independent label.) I’ve always been a big fan, however–and, uh, by the way, I did the graphic design for Poor Man Shuffle and it looks like I also get to have some fun with his new one, Blues in Dixieland. Make a note: it’s coming this Christmas to a record store near you.