THE MEDIA IS THREE KINDS OF SHREWD | 2004-04-03
Reporters are hopeless provincials because they think they are sophisticated.
Reporters are hopelessly ignorant because they think they are highly knowledgeable.
Reporters think they are highly creative people so you have to do all their creative work for them.
In WhitakerOnline I keep emphasizing the power of the good old Southern expression "Shrewd." A Shrewd person is one who thinks he brilliant and who is actually a dolt.
Every Southerner in Washington knows that a Yankee will never get over the idea that a Southern accent means that one is naive. They keep getting run over by Clintons and Carters and Southern senators, but this idea is incurable.
And I LOVE it!
An ignorant Shrewd person differs from the ordinary ignorant person because his ignorance is incurable. I can explain things to a working man who never finished high school that no paid intellectual can understand. The working man does not think he knows it already.
The reporter who goes all around the world is absolutely convinced he is sophisticated. Actually he is among the most provincial people on earth. He lives inside the press culture. He is sitting in a bar in Baghdad with other reporters while history is being made a hundred miles away.
A famous example was the Patty Hearst kidnapping in the 1970s. All the regular reporters were out playing touch football on the lawn of the Hearst estate. They were waiting for news to come to them.
One reporter went out and got important stuff.
But today the reporters would still be playing out on the lawn with other reporters. They learn nothing because they think they are already great professionals. The other reporters tell them so.
And that is the kind of person an editor wants working for him. All the guys his reporter is playing touch football with know what the editor wants to hear. They will send him stories he can use. Scoops are really not all that valuable. What the editor wants is to fill up space with stuff that was like what his readers wanted to read about last week and the week before. A real go-getter wouldn't be able to give him that sort of thing consistently.