A career telling the story of others’, as you might expect, brings you in contact with thousands of people over the years. As such, it doesn’t take long to figure out the world is teaming with idiots.
Becoming jaded is, in part, a resultant defense mechanism of the profession. You simply have to become hardened to horrible things that happen to good people as well as seeing good people do horrible things. Having a front-row seat to the world in which you live isn’t always as good as it sounds. Tragedy happens. I’ve seen it; women get raped, children die horribly by accident and purposefully at the hands of another, and psychos walk into offices and start shooting. I ain’t talkin’ bout no puppy-kitty love-in fest feature story.
The idiots are the part of the profession that keeps us all grounded. They are the ones who distract us after weeks of telling the detailed story of a woman who straps her children in the car and drowns them. They are the ones who give us stories to tell while having a tall frosty, and they also help us dissipate any journalist-on-journalist flap that happens daily (“Just jazz it up a bit with some nats.”)
There are several variations of idiot, and we love’em all simply because they make us laugh.
THE DAILY IDIOT: This is the most common. He’s the one who calls the newsroom on a daily basis to either talk or complain about something. Most of the time this person is lonely and wants to talk to someone.
One South-Carolina hot August day my buddy receives this call.
“Yeah, uh….is this the newsroom?”
“Yes sir, how can I help you?” (side note: it’s 5:30 p.m.)
“I see you guys doing stories on how to keep cool. Well, I just got out of the shower and had a towel wrapped around me but didn’t have anything else on. I walked past my fan, and that blew right up my towel. Boy, that sure is keeping me cool. Just wanted to let you guys know.”
“Thank you, sir. I’ll pass that along.”
THE STUPID IDIOT: This person simply doesn’t think before speaking.
“Hey, what newspaper is this going to be in,” he asks the photojournalist who is shouldering a 35-pound Betacam, schlepping a 15-pound metal tripod, and wearing the photog equivalent of Batman’s Bat Belt.
For those not in-the-know, a huge Betacam with mentioned accessories looks nothing like a standard 35mm still camera.
“Yeah,….uh, is this Channel 4?”
“Yes sir, how can I help you?”
“Hey, does my kid have school today,” the caller asks the wet journalist who picked up the newsroom phone after coming in from his 5 a.m. snow-coverage liveshots.
Silently the journalist waits for more information. Silence…..silence……silence……nothing except the caller saying, “Uh, hello.”
“I’m not sure,” says the journalist.
“My kid’s school said that channel Foe would tell us if we had school or not.”
“What is my name,” asks the journalist.
“How should I know your name,” says the increasingly frustrated caller.
“How should I know if your kid has school if you don’t tell me which school he attends.”
Again back to those not in the business. This happens 1000 time every single time we have a threat of snow.
For Part II of the Idiots Have Their Place In The Newsroom series, we’ll explore several more types of idiots who help keep the newsroom running smoothly.
On a completely different note, I’ve noticed through my blog tracking stats (which tracks IP addresses, by the way) that someone is googling my last name and “Greenville Hospital System” in an attempt to find my blog? STOP IT!