Monday, May 23, 2005

Lament of the Inside the Beltway Reporter


It is late at night. I am sitting in front of the lockers at the Greyhound bus terminal. I always come here when I’m troubled.

I am an inside the beltway Washington reporter. I work for one of the national weekly news magazines. It was a struggle to get where I am today. Starting as a cub reporter at my hometown newspaper it took decades to advance. I consider myself successful, I have a new home in a trendy Washington suburb and keep my wife and two kids in a lifestyle my parents would have considered opulent. I rub shoulders with those in power, and use them as sources for important stories that appear on the cover of the magazine.

But lately something has been bothering me. I have had trouble sleeping. It all started when I caught a showing of “All the President’s Men” on TV a few months ago. When I was starting out in the business, Woodward and Bernstein were my heroes. God, I loved the book and the movie. The way they stood up to power, even when they were personally criticized and threatened by government officials!

It seems so different today. Look at the recent story involving Newsweek and the protests in Afghanistan. Look at Helen Thomas and Dan Rather. It seems if you raise any questions about the administration today, you are vilified and your career destroyed. I tell myself I still have the courage to pursue tough questions about the Bush White House, but my mortgage is so big, I really can’t afford to be out of work.

The organization that owns my magazine is a big media conglomerate. You are not “told” a subject is off limits, but c’mon we are all adults here. Let’s just say you probably are not going to see too many investigative reports about our parent company or it’s subsidiaries. I mean, really, why rock the boat?

Still, isn’t that our job as reporters, to go where the truth takes us? I hate these feelings of conflict.

Which is why I come to the Greyhound station. In locker 3AJ I keep a small box. It originally contained my Society of Professional Journalists, Howard S Dubin award metal. I reach in and open it up. There, in the cushioned felt, lay my testicles. It’s nice to spend a few moments with them again and think back at all the happy times we had together. Sighing, I close the lid carefully, put the box back in the locker and turn the key. I guess having no balls is a small price to pay to be a modern journalist.

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