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How I Make A Living

Here are some notes on the reporter's trade from a few of the best.
I.F. Stone speaking in Andrew Patner's I.F. Stone: A Portrait: "Your publisher is a guy who made five million dollars in the toilet-paper business and thinks that made him a journalist and he doesn't know from nothing, and he picks up his ideas in the locker room of a country club. And he wants to know if there isn't really a problem with your stuff." On Washington reporting in the old days:

"Richard V. Oulihan was the chief Washington correspondent of the New York Times. He used to play medicine ball every morning at the White House. That's enough to kill off a good reporter. Not because it was medicine ball. But you cannot get intimate with officials and maintain your independence. No matter whether they are good guys or bad guys.

"Don't get intimate with them or you lose your independence and they'll use you." Robert Scheer, writing in the introduction to his Thinking Tuna Fish, Talking Death, Essays on the Pornography of Power:

"`Class' is the unspoken word of American journalism, and class divisions are presumed to be the preoccupation of malcontents, not reporters. But somewhere between my parents and City College of New York I developed an unshakable habit of thinking about social problems in class terms. Nobody seems to know who said: `The role of the press is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.' The quote is attributed variously to A.J. Liebling, H.L. Mencken, and Karl Marx, but I believe it and cherish the moment at a Los Angeles Times award dinner when I shared the sentiment with my employers.

"To put it bluntly, I want in any story to know who's getting screwed and who's doing the screwing." Alexander Cockburn from Corruptions of Empire, Life Studies and the Reagan Era:

"Let's end with a forthright expression of where power in the press lies, as described in Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas' book, The Wise Men. In 1943, Newsweek had the temerity to raise questions about the efficiency of daylight bombing of Germany. One of the artificers of that policy, Robert Lovett, then in the war department, asked Averell Harriman, then in London, to help out. Harriman, who had invested in Newsweek, laid down an editorial line for his brother Roland, who sat on the magazine's board of directors, to impose:

"`I have not supported Newsweek for ten years through its grave difficulties to allow our hired men to use the magazine to express their narrow, uninformed or insidious ideas . . . . The other directors can be asked to resign if they do not go along.'

"This is the ruling class talking to itself, and it should be pasted on the front gate of every journalism school as a pithy statement on the realities of the business.

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Tom Fitzpatrick