The lonely life of journalists


Journalists are supposed to be objective. Maybe the public doesn’t buy that any more, but I still hold it as a standard.

Part of being objective is maintaining a distance. You don’t pull for teams, you don’t have cozy relationships with politicians or celebs or CEOs. You don’t wear your heart or your politics on your sleeve.

We cover the news, even when it happens at inconvenient times in inconvenient places.

But it’s worth it. Usually.


With newspapers, you find some hardcore introverts who wind up in a career that requires them to be extroverts.

“Get this guy on the phone, whom you’ve never met, and get him to tell you about why he stole money from his company.”

“Find the family and get a quote about their only daughter who just got run over on the freeway.”

So, they not only have to be extroverts, but sometimes extroverts with an agenda and a pressing deadline.

It’s not always like that. But it can be lonely having to be near the action, but separate from it.

We choose this life. And for all kinds of reasons.

One of the best reasons is because journalists are granted access that civilians don’t typically have. We talk with people in powerful positions. We see things that citizens don’t normally see up close — and often things that they shouldn’t see up close.

Abusing that privilege isn’t merely a question of ethics. It’s abuse of the public trust. I haven’t always made the right call as a reporter and an editor, but I’ve pushed myself and others to have the discussion, be certain that we’ve exhausted the possible repercussions of our choices.

Once you put out the newspaper, it’s out there. The damage is done.

We get it right most of the time. And when we do, it really is a thankless task. Getting it right often means pissing people off, including your readers and sources.

That’s OK. I made my peace with it long ago.

Sometimes, I cite my role as a journalist as a crutch to avoid social situations. I err on the side of caution, to avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest. But I’ll admit, for someone like me who feels like an outsider, it’s an easy crutch to wield.

We live in darkened rooms hunched over keyboards, putting our ideas to bed. We live in this world, but just off to the side. We work into the wee hours to make sure it is as good as it can be.

A lonely life, yes, but a noble pursuit nonetheless.


About this entry