Well, this is a tricky question that I often ask myself – well, at least as much as I ask myself why I got OUT of journalism. Which question runs close on the heels of a question that is far more trenchant these days: Why in hell am I thinking of getting back in?
PRWeek: How and why did you get into journalism?
Jack Shafer: I don’t know. The problem with those kinds of questions is that when we look at the past, or our motivations– there’s a great Paul Auster quotation that says, "Memory is the place where a thing happens the second time." So when you ask somebody like me, who is now 54, how I got into this business and why, you’re asking me to ask somebody who’s in his twenties, "Say fellow, why did you do this?" And I would say happenstance, good luck, need for ego fulfillment, vanity, and the desire to say, ‘Hey, I’m here,’ which I think underscores practically everything we do. So I don’t have a real good answer.
To this I would like to add "barely disguised Messiah Complex," "hatred and fear of complex math equasions" and "too many shots of Jagermeister."
Shaferâ€™s interview was a great mix of information and the kind of off-the-cuff funny cynicism that marks the best kind of the old traditional after deadline, one-foot-up-on-the-barrail conversations that journalists so often had (and so little shared with the public). Which is why I think that blogs are such a wonderful means of levelling with the public – of breaking through that false authoritative position and actually having a real conversation with the people who we want to be our readers.
Iâ€™d excerpt even more from his interview, but I think that would be unfair, and besides, you should read the whole thing yourself. He talks about both the doomscreeching of the spoiled fatass newspapers, and how media donâ€™t ever actually wither up and die (although the Assyrian stick marks in clay tablets market has been rather off for the last two millennia), but that they are, and always have been, constantly evolving. Reading words off sheets of paper is not going to go away forever. It might not be as widespread as it once was, or as it is now, but itâ€™ll still be around. It just wonâ€™t be as convenient as other forms of scarfing up info. The way that afternoon papers werenâ€™t as convenient/good as watching the 5 oâ€™clock news â€“ which, I think, was at least partially driven by the need to watch the Vietnam War and the latest demonstrations and assassinations. Video of violent conflict always trumps a written description. Whereas writing is the best way to communicate a complex, thoughtful argument. You know, the kind that youâ€™ll probably never find on this lame-ass site.