etc. — picked up on the conventional wisdom that the comics have become
the go-to source for America’s news. They kept asking about it in
different ways for an hour. The comics took the questions seriously at
first, but then they grew more and more uncomfortable with what was
starting to sound like a growing social responsibility.
As the crowd marveled at the comics’ ability to skewer the very people
those in the audience spent their days courting or covering, the comics
essentially said, while shrugging their collective shoulders: “Hey,
we’re just doing our jobs. We’re just trying to make people laugh.
Sure, we try to be accurate and not make up facts, but that’s as far as
it goes. We don’twant people to use us for their main source of news.”
Then it hit me that the people in the audience thought the comics led a
glamorous life and the people wanted the comics to bring that glamor to
news. But the comics made it clear they work hard at their jobs,
similar to journalists perhaps, but they’re not journalists. Their job
title is “comic” and they report to their offices early each day with
enough on their plates for chrissakes, and that usually entails keeping
up with what journalists are reporting.
Well, no. They’re not journalists. And a lot of people look at Those Kids Today getting their news from That Jon Stewart Fella as evidence that there’s something wrong with the Kids Today and not something wrong with the people who can’t seem to hold the interest of anybody but themselves. Is this my Catholicism talking, or something, where if I couldn’t keep my audience I’d assume something was wrong with me, and not them? Are these the same people that, when you break up with them, assume it’s because you’re unworthy of their greatness?
I’ve been talking about this with various smart people in the wake of Chicago Media Future, this idea that I wouldn’t mind so much newspaper folks bagging on new media ideas as all trivial and stupid and fake if they were doing their own jobs well. Like, don’t come to me bitching I’m not making enough money to be credible or producing enough original content when by your own admission you’ve got to ask your staff to cut their own salaries in order to make your owners happy; clearly what you got going on ain’t burning the barn down, slick.
Just do your own jobs. Just do journalism well. Isn’t that a tall enough order? Why witter around about what Jon Stewart and Colbert are doing? If you think they can teach you something, then learn from them the way you’d learn from anybody and get back to doing your job better. But all this, “He’s not a journalist” and “you aren’t going to be able to pay your writers” and other nonsense that goes on is just noisy carping. Doing journalism well is hard. That should be enough work without monitoring every comic on the planet making sure nobody’s taking them too seriously.