Wednesday, March 4, 2009
An Afterthought for the Winner
A final thought before we bid adieu to the AJC and its quest for a new token conservative.
Even given my low opinion of the newspaper business in general and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in particular, I wouldn't have put in the time to apply for their "lone conservative" job if I didn't think that it's a great gig. I won't even pretend to deny that the idea of making a living reading and thinking and writing about what you're thinking is an intoxicating one. Whomever gets the job is going to be the beneficiary of a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I sincerely hope they not only make the most of it, but are able to stay in that job for a long time. Whether that's going to be possible at a paper that's losing a million dollars a week, I have my doubts, but all the same: feature columnist for a big daily is still a great gig.
But I do have one word of warning for the eventual winner of the columnist search, especially if that individual is not already a member of the "journalism" fraternity: Watch your back.
Whomever you are, you are about to become a living, breathing target. It would be bad enough if you had been plucked out of the newsroom and given this rarely-awarded sinecure, but if you came from Outside, brother/sister, you are going to draw a hell of a lot of fire. Every bozo in the country who managed to eke out a BA in Journalism thinks he/she should have your job. Some will make it their mission in life to make you into an example of why no media outlet should ever give so much as an inch of column space to anybody who didn't spend ten years of their lives covering junior-high track meets, and it only makes things worse that you're one of those evil, stupid, backwards (RACIST!) conservatives.
They're going to be coming after you every single day, in the newsroom, on Romenesko and Kos and TPM and every vile corner of the anti-conservative internet, so you watch your back. You're not going to get the benefit of the doubt, even once. A Molly Ivins could get away with plagiarism because she had the "right" (actually Left) ideological bona fides. A Rick Bragg could get away with faking bylines and still get hired for big magazine features, because besides being a leftie, he's got the right credentialist boxes checked on his resume. You won't.
I could go on and on, but chances are you already know the dishonor roll. You have to be better than them, every single day, in getting your facts right and your arguments tight. Their knives are out for you, and they'll be out every single time you publish a single word, so be ready. Don't give them the opportunity.