Just stumbled upon this very, erm, passionate post by Jeff Pearlman, a sports journalist and an author of several books featured in New York Times’ best-sellers list. (Again, I’m late — the post was actually published more than a week ago. Again, I still find it worth blogging about.)
I won’t quote it here, because quoting the most passionate parts would probably seem inappropriate. But, seriously, read it. It will take 5 minutes of your time, it’s funny and sad at the same time, and it’s really insightful and helpful for any discussion about the state of American news media. To put it short, Pearlman puts the blame for the current decline of newspaper industry on the publishers and the owners of newspapers — and precisely on Gannett corporation. He says that it was them who set new rules — both in terms of reporting itself and business — and these rules, Pearlman argues, were wrong, and they are one of the main reasons why Gannett newspapers are now going down and the corporation has to perform many layoffs. Pearlman thinks that we should not sympathize with them, but condemn them.
Well, I have to say that Pearlman sounds pretty persuasive. But since I’m not an expert in American newspaper industry by any means, I can’t properly elaborate on that. What intrigued me about his post, though, is not only what he says, but how he says it. There’s a lot of profanity in there — in fact, the f-word frames the post and pretty much constitutes its message. And that brings me back to the discussion that at some point we had in class. Of course, Pearlman wrote that in his personal blog — but this blog is published on his official websites which, among other things, sells his books, so it is clear for any reader of his post that the author is a professional journalist who occasionally writes for Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated and other honorable publications.
So the question goes: does his passion and his use of profanity compromise Pearlman as a journalist? Can it offend his readers and/or his employers? Can it be considered unprofessional? Well, I can’t speak for all the audience, but it surely didn’t offend me. Moreover: I didn’t know anything about Pearlman beforehand (probably because I don’t know anything about American sports), but now he in a way won me over. I didn’t buy any of his books right away (probably because they are about basketball, and not Gannett), but now if I see a link to one of his stories on Twitter, I will probably click on it. Being a journalist, he expressed his personality very vividly and strongly, and now I’m interested in his writing.
Of course, I am not trying to say that all the journalist should start cursing. My point is: controversial things are not necessarily bad for your reputation — they can also do some good. It’s not about words or feelings themselves, it’s about how you use them in your writing.