Increasingly, my gung-ho journalism friends are becoming disillusioned. Not with the world. That's old news. It only takes a little bit of time reading, writing, and reporting about the world to become disillusioned with it.

Rather, it's our starry-eyed attitude about the power and resilience of the industry we love and believe in that is fading fast.

Perhaps there is some comfort from the words of The New York Times' Timothy Egan, written on the real independence day (a fact my sister, born two days before her official due date, likes to point out).

The blog post also arrived on the day the LA Times announced the paper will face 150 layoffs and higher-ups wrote in an e-mail: "But it is absolutely crucial that as we move through this process, we must maintain our ambition and our determination to produce the highest-quality journalism in print and online, every day" thus making me want to throw up, because there is only so many times you can say "do more with less" without asking for accusations of "Bull Shit" from the people who still desperately want to believe in the viability of print.

On the lobby wall of the newspaper where I got my first reporting job are the Thomas Jefferson words that journalists like to trot out as Independence Day nears:

"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

Of course, Jefferson also said the only reliable truths in newspapers were the advertisements, and that he was happiest when not reading the papers.

But as to his iconic quote, it's no secret that we're trending toward the former. And anyone who cheers the collapse of the newspaper industry should consider why Jefferson put aside his distaste for the vitriol and nonsense of the press for the larger principle of healthy democracies needing informed citizens....

My lament this Fourth of July is to ask readers to see newspapers as not just another casualty in the churn of business. Sure, reporters say stupid things and write idiotic stories. Everyone stumbles. But on its best days, a newspaper is a marvel of style and wit, of small-type discoveries and large-type overstatements, a diary of our deeds.

We may still prove Jefferson's preference wrong: perhaps a nation can function without newspapers. But it would be a confederacy of dunces.

Sigh. Sometimes, it's like believing in fairies.

2 Responses to 'Holding My Breath, Closing My Eyes, Crossing My Fingers, and Clapping As Loudly As I Can'

  1. Erin said...'> July 3, 2008 at 7:49 PM

    Sigh, I am way disillusioned today. Get here faster so we can commiserate in person!


  2. Tom said...'> July 5, 2008 at 10:58 PM

    you gta maintain realistic expectations though...or you're bound to be disillusioned.

    that said, i'm disillusioned.


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Written Pyramids is a blog written by a journalist living and working in Washington D.C.

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