Welcome to the Inky Finger Brigade

Uneasy Chair

Posted 7/3/19

Dear Leader Intern,

In a way, I was pleased that Charlie Bermant, the host of KPTZ radio’s news show, walked into the middle of your interview, interrupted you and conducted his own …

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Welcome to the Inky Finger Brigade

Uneasy Chair

Posted

Dear Leader Intern,

In a way, I was pleased that Charlie Bermant, the host of KPTZ radio’s news show, walked into the middle of your interview, interrupted you and conducted his own interview all while bad-mouthing the newspaper he leans on to fill his air-time.

We hope for teachable moments when we host interns, and now Charlie has taught you about the folks at the studio mic whom broadcast pros refer to, without irony, as “the talent.”

When station owners differentiate “the talent” from the rest of the hardworking staff at their stations, we scribes have been known to quietly mutter a nick-name I won’t repeat here.

It’s not a term we use for the rest of the station’s volunteer news staff, whom we are proud to call colleagues.

As you progress, Dear Intern, you’ll learn broadcast “talent” are sometimes a newspaper’s most avid readers. Combing our pages to learn what’s going on and which sources to call, they save the time ink-stained wretches spend on head-scratching, dead-end calls and “no comment” from local worthies. You get no such Cliff Notes  when you start an assignment.

The local station’s “talent” used to work at The Leader and he can’t seem to let go. On his locked-against-rebuttals Facebook page and in public (as he did when hijacking your interview) he routinely uses his position to work out his private vendetta against the paper.

The Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics, which you’ll study in college, Dear Intern, expressly forbids journalists using their position for private benefit. He has apparently decided he’s under no such restriction and wraps himself in the station’s cloak of respectability to vent his swollen spleen.

Once you get over your excellent upbringing and lose your kindly impulse to respect all elders, his roadside machismo will come into clearer focus.

1. Journalism isn’t a dainty tea party, but interrupting another reporter’s underway interview is poxy behavior. We don’t walk between camera and talent during a standup, we don’t shake our ice-filled soda cup next to talent’s mic and when a competing still or video camera person is at the scene, we avoid bumping their tripod or walking through their shot. Professional courtesy is what distinguishes journalism from talk radio.

2. Introducing oneself to an interview subject by bad-mouthing the news outlet already on-scene doesn’t violate any code. But it sort of defines talk radio and it’s unfortunately the go-to move of bullies everywhere, from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue all the way to that windy verge of Sims Way where you were shoved aside.

I highly doubt he’d have done it if you were not a summer intern, which pretty well sums up some Boomers’ stewardship ethos: “Gimme my half from the middle and too bad for Gen Z.”

So, welcome to the Inky Fingered Brigade.

We’re not perfect, nor are we popular. Talent treat us poorly. We’re an easy target for the snarky and yet newspaper reporters like you serve a vital purpose. As you have done all summer, America’s scribes go to public hearings and courthouses, interview key players, translate the language of law and governance into English, distill it into a few paragraphs and give the taxpayers a readable heads-up.

Public officials often think the public’s too dense for the whole story, but when, for example,  multiple local entities are planning to increase property taxes, you will be the one saying so in simple declarative sentences that don’t include gems like “revenue enhancement provisions.”

Worker bees too busy to keep an eye on what’s being done in their name and with their money grab news from whatever source suits their habits, but most of it starts in a newspaper.

I have watched you drown in new and complicated information all summer and then fight your way back up with the persistence of a cork. You have embraced the small-town essence of Leader journalism and your knowledge of this place has made the paper better every week. Some town will be well-served in a few years when you land a full-time berth as a reporter.

Luckiest of all will be local “talent,” wherever you land, who will rely on your work to fill dead air.

(Dean Miller is Editor  of The Leader.)

Comments

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Tom Camfield

Boy, do I have inky fingers! And having been through the mill, around the bend and over the hill as a journalist, author, historian and student of human nature, I truly enjoy reading the opinions and enlightenments of Dean Miller, a fairly recent addition to the editorial staff of my old newspaper. He is doing a lot to keep our hometown press a symbol of hope and good conscience in an era when the head of our national government is making every effort to overpower the First Amendment's Freedom of the Press and Free Speech. Our pathetic excuse for a president is championing greed, vanity and racism—and he has a retinue of rapacious rats.

I'm casting my lot with Miller, a college journalism professor with deep Port Townsend roots, who is continuing in both teaching and practice to tell and illustrate what it's all about.

I have grandchildren older than today's journalistic interns and young 25- or 30-year-old “veterans.” But I’m still hand-in-hand with the interns polishing their craft today. Some may stub a toe on occasion, but they still bring smiles to my curmudgeonly old face. I don't think there is any profession pursued at the college level with more altruism than journalism—although education would probably run a close second.

Journalism is not something a young person jumps into with an auditor’s view of the future. It is an attempt at salvation of a deteriorating society. There are challenges to fair-minded journalism at every hand—many of them self-serving troglodytes availing themselves of the bullying nature of a Donald Trump.

Give me the demure, humble and altruistically dedicated pen-wielders who are concerned with the souls of others. If one of you happens to misspell my name along the way, don’t worry about it.

I published my own newspaper at age 29. Talk to me any time.

Wednesday, July 3