Is there a separate elegy to be written for that generation of newspapermen and women who came of age after Vietnam, after the Pentagon Papers and Watergate? For us starry-eyed acolytes of a glorious new church, all of us secular and cynical and dedicated to the notion that though we would still be stained with ink, we were no longer quite wretches? Where is our special requiem?
Bright and shiny we were in the late 1970s, packed into our bursting journalism schools, dog-eared paperback copies of “All the President’s Men” and “The Powers That Be” atop our Associated Press stylebooks. No business school called to us, no engineering lab, no information-age computer degree—we had seen a future of substance in bylines and column inches. Immortality lay in a five-part series with sidebars in the Tribune, the Sun, the Register, the Post, the Express.
What the hell happened?
Those words, the beginning of a powerful op-ed in Sunday’s Washington Post about the state of American journalism, caused much soul-searching for me yesterday. I don’t remember these better days, and I know that if journalists are great at one thing, it is seeing the negative in any situation. But I also know that such nostalgia is not just bitter and certainly not sweet, and it’s sad to wonder what the future holds for news ink journos.
The column is written by David Simon, executive producer of “The Wire,” and it only gets more depressing from that point, particularly when he talks about the thinning of his former employer, The Baltimore Sun, and compares the attempt to repackage newspapers more efficiently and engagingly to the Chevy Vega.