How to talk to a journalist

Look, a printing press! I’m not out of a job yet!

If my blog was a dinner party, well, you’d all be invited, of course. I’d serve up some California wine and avocados. And I would insist that you not ask me questions about the limited lifespan of print media and/or the corruption of “lame-stream” media in general, because, hey, I’m your host, so you shouldn’t stress me out.

But this isn’t a dinner party, at least not one where I can serve you wine and guac, and therefore I encourage questions about the future and purpose of my career — as long as they’re respectful and openminded. After all, if you never ask questions, how are you going to become a more enlightened citizen (which is, coincidentally, the whole point of my career in journalism)?

One thing I’ve noticed since graduating with a degree in journalism  is that a lot of people are cynical about the role of the media and pity my impending irrelevance. One man I met yesterday compared my dying career choice to that of a train engineer.

Although wait, train engineers do still exist. In fact, California is in the process of building a $68-billion high-speed rail system, making train engineers especially relevant.

Oh, and I got that information from a story I read. Written by a journalist.

But I digress.

I don’t think cynicism is anything unique to journalism majors. I’m sure teachers get constant comments about how the education system in America is falling to pieces, and businessmen are told their capitalism is ruining society, and bioengineers are told they’re corrupting nature, and artists are told they’re just crazy. For every calling in life, there will be people who don’t understand and/or fear it, which means that those people have a calling that someone else doesn’t understand and/or fears, and you’d think they realize, “Huh, if they feel this way about my career and I think it’s irrational, maybe the way I feel about this other career is irrational, too!”

I’m not saying don’t ask questions. As a Jewish journalist — two cultures that love asking questions — that’s the last thing I’d encourage. All I’m saying is, ask with an intention to learn something new. Maybe the other person can’t articulate an answer, or maybe you decide, ultimately, that even after hearing a brilliant thesis about how journalism is a cornerstone of democracy, you still think it’s a load of crap — or that it’s so terribly messed up that you are suddenly called to devote your life to fixing it. That’s fine! That’s fantastic! The point is, you wanted to learn, not just tell someone how terrible their life choices are. And every recent college graduate will like you more.

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