Coffee mugs, filled up and rag-tagged reporting pads, criminal case files, maps, accordion files filled with contact info, notebooks filled with trial notes, red pens used for slashing through all those read aloud gibberish drafts attempting to turn stream of consciousness dumps into balanced sentence gold; the English to Albanian dictionary, the printed out guilty pleas and allocutions; in the field in and out of internet cafes, airport CPUs, random offices in other countries with thumb drives, lugging around e-mails from anon sources with their names ripped off to protect identities; folders with lists of alleged criminals; letters from prisoners and passwords and scores of resource info scotch taped to the wall above your desk.
Revising and shaping raw drafts of notebook dumps on a Saturday — I love this reporter’s life. I love it. Playing the computer keyboard, typing like it’s a damn Stevie Wonder piano.
Writing and publishing to make it realer, not real — have to learn that and keep that idea protected and sure and hold that tight — the idea that it’s real already, the experience, it doesn’t have to be a published article to make it real.
I got this Fred Friendly (RIP). I got this James Agee (RIP). I got this Pro Publica. I got this AAN, Association of Alternative Newspapers (RIP). I got this Dean Isaacs and Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. I got this Long Reads and Long Form and David Isay and all you submitting to Granta, the Beliver, Ploughshares, this that and the other Review and small journal. I got this old Village Voice. I got this Hitchens (RIP, damn goddamn that’s a waste, all that intellect just taken away) and Orwell and Rian Milan and Izzy Stone. I got this all you all who spent so much time in the field and accumulated all those boxes of tapes and were going through hell transcribing with that foot pedal. I got this Random Family and all you struggling with those 60 page, rewritten 20 times, rejected 11 times, book proposals.
So and And: Long live independent, long form, in-depth journalism. It’s not always about money, advertising, getting paid. Those guys and gals of IRE — not to be precious or high falutin because they’d hate that — are artists. Even the guy much ridiculed for typing in pajamas and mom’s basement — I’m with him — it’s art and the First Amendment is not just a joke, lip service, welcome to the real world, yeah right free press dream on, get out of here you can’t come in here, you can’t see that — I believe in it. We stand at Cardinal games during the National Anthem and it’s not corny. So I’m standing, taking my hats off and respecting and believing in our the First Amendment.