Thursday, February 08, 2007

A poisoned house

I think it was either Ed or Simon that was critical of the editorial writing of The Telegram. To be fair, good editorial writing is a damn sight harder than most people think. Just look at what's passing for an editorial in this week's Muse (sorry Sheena, but at the next ARCUP or CUP conference for the love of God get someone in to teach proper editorial writing. That's a column, not an editorial) for more proof.

It's hard. I did it for both The Packet and The Express and while I'm quite proud of some of the editorials I've written, I'm sure I had my share of clunkers. And I was only doing them once a week, sometimes only once a month. I can only imagine writing them every day. And perhaps it's different in dailies, but in every weekly I've ever worked for, editorials are normally the last thing written, and generally when you're pretty hard up on a deadline. So the proper thought, logic and argument doesn't always go into them that it should.

However, I liked this editorial in the Telegram on Thursday. The editorial is spot on about what it's like to cover St. John's City Council. I did my time in hell. I thought it would be exciting, then got disillusioned, then began a running commentary with my fellow reporters and eventually got to the point where I was done with it.

I like politics. I like covering politics. Hell, I got my start in journalism covering CSU meetings at MUN. Covering City Council is a gruelling, punishing assignment. There were times I wanted to yell at councillors for being idiots. Myself and other reporters would chat about how stupid some of the councillors were being. I was openly disdainful of one. When council considered putting aside somewhere between $5,000 to $10,000 for the creation of a St. John's Poet Laurette I told several of them that I would write stories on it that would make their eyes bleed because I considered it such an idiotic idea.

Understand, this is all very bad, very unprofessional behaviour for a journalist. I'm more than a touch embarrassed when I think back on it. But I swear, it's the building, or something in the water or just the general atmosphere of the place that makes you unprofessional. I don't think I was a bad reporter. I know several of my comrades in arms were among the better reporters in town...when on other assignments. But in there, you became almost as the lot of them.

The editorial writer nailed it in this truly is a poison house when you can break even seasoned journalists into unprofessional behaviour. But it's also true that we can grovel to editors and ask for our freedom. God help the poor bastard who work there and have to deal with them day in and day out. I can only assume they're heavily medicated after their first two or three years.


Edward G. Hollett said...

Every blogger worth his or her salt knows how hard it is to write editorials.

I've poked the Tellytorialists a couple of times and Simon whacked them recently.

Hopefully it's over content and not writing ability.

The one on Council was very good and more often than not the Telly eds are literate and make a sharp point.

They are a far cry from the bad old days when they would precis an issue and end off with the insightful observation that yes, there was a problem and yes, by gum someone would come up with a solution sooner or later.

Fundamentally, though I don't get really upset with editorials unless they spell my name wrongly.



Rob said...

I can understand your frustration with council. In general, they're an embarrasment. I had to listen to the Mayor of Calgary tell me a about a dinner in St. Johns with Andy Wells on one side telling Mayor Bronconnier what a "stupid old woman" Shannie Duff was and Shannie on the other side telling the Mayor what an ignorant pig Andy Wells was, he was a bit shocked to say the least.