What can we learn from crusty old journalists.

There is a very witty blog called Stuffjournalistslike.com that is truly a blast to read.  I had tears streaming down my face with laughter.  One article on Grumpy old journalists, actually made me nostalgic for some of the crusty old reporters from my past.  It reminded me that there are fewer of these old die hards and that the lessons we gained from them cannot be lost.

Mandates of a crusty old journalist

  • No room for errors (especially fact errors)
  • No exaggerations
  • Don’t take a person’s word for it
  • Deadlines are mandatory
  • Don’t screw your team over

Fellow journalists, we have failed those crusty old guys in terms of journalistic integrity.  A lot of embarrassing errors and exaggerations make air.  (The Jeremy Lin, ESPN “Chink In the Armor” reference is just the latest.)   Crusty old journalists do not use cheesy phrases.  (Honestly, even if the people didn’t know that “Chink” can be taken as a highly offensive ethnic slur, it is a cheesy phrase to use highlighting a 1 game losing streak.) Old timers also always made sure their pieces were not just fact checked once, but triple checked.  They did not assume they could not screw something up just because they are veterans in their field.  To them, you had your facts checked simply because, there was no room for error.  These old timers would say “If you can’t get your facts straight, you don’t deserve to be a journalist!”  That’s why you fact check and refuse to exaggerate.

So, naturally, crusty old journalists were special kinds of skeptics.  If a PIO said “This is the way it is!” and walked off in a huff that reporter knew to call “Bullshit!  Prove it.”  To take a line from Missouri’s state mantra, “Show me.” Crusty old journalists didn’t care if they occasionally pissed off a PIO.  They remembered a key fact:  PIO’s need to respect journalists also.  That journalist would go to a source in order to fact check the PIO.  And if the PIO was lying, you can bet that old timer would expose the truth.

But the last two mandates of a crusty old journalist are the most important if you want to survive and thrive in a modern day newsroom.  Don’t miss deadlines and don’t screw your team over.  (These go hand in hand.)  I get that the new mantra is more “me” oriented.  But here’s the deal, putting “deadlines” and “team” first actually puts your best interests first.  If you are screwing over the producer, anchor, photographer or manager regularly you will face payback.  And, oh by the way, it will hurt.  Don’t make yourself vulnerable.  Be an untouchable, crusty old journalist.