No, I haven’t become schizophrenic. What I have become though is somewhat sympathetic to Dave’s predicament (if you’re not sure what that predicament is, let me Google that for you). This somewhat improbable turn of events occurred after I read the mea culpa of sorts that Dave penned over on Big Journalism.
Though it might appear that we have little in common other than our chosen profession, Dave and myself are very much alike in one respect. We have both taken some pendulum-like swings along the political spectrum and, I think, continue to search for what we truly believe.
You see, I was once a liberal. Then I was a staunch conservative. Then I wasn’t sure what I was. Then I arrived somewhere at moderate/libertarian, but maybe leaning to the right. While that isn’t exactly the political path that Dave is on, we’ve both shifted over the years and we may continue to shift.
Having gone through all these changes, I continue to aggressively question what I believe on an almost daily basis. I try the best I can to cultivate independent thought. I try to consume punditry from both liberals and conservatives and allow for a free market of ideas inside my mind. I read books. I don’t watch cable news. I read the work of both professional thinkers and journalists and amateur bloggers (though not all bloggers are amateurs). I try to get a broad picture of how people perceive issues and policies in different parts of the country and even the world. I keep an open mind, but stand firm on certain principles.
Though I haven’t personally been subjected to the scrutiny that Dave has, I’ve understood that this kind of… flexibility if you will can be punished. One may be perceived to be wishy-washy, a waffler. We live in a world in which it’s more acceptable to be a rigid ideologue than a free thinker.
I also recognized myself in Dave when he wrote:
…I was cocky, and I got worse. I treated the [Journo]-list like a dive bar, swaggering in and popping off about what was “really” happening out there, and snarking at conservatives. Why did I want these people to like me so much? Why did I assume that I needed to crack wise and rant about people who, usually for no more than five minutes were getting on my nerves?
Why did Dave, a purportedly right-of-center journalist feel the need to show conservative-bashing street cred to a list of leftists? I think we all know the answer to that. I’ve personally felt compelled to do the same on many occasions. It’s no secret that many reporters tend to lean left and expressing conservative views among a group of journalists can cause quite a hush to fall over the crowd. So we joke and say things that will be sure to allay the possible fears of our liberal colleagues in the newsroom. If you ask me, this is the real tragedy of this whole thing.
I also heard echoes of myself when reading this part:
But I was never combative against liberals. Reporting in a close-knit campus community made it impossible and untenable to pick political fights every day. I was more interested in covering politics than in advocating for a political stance (outside of columns I wrote for my paper and later the daily campus paper). I cared more about finding out stories first than about advocating positions — those stories would get me the jobs I wanted, not the opinions I had. And I knew that I didn’t want to be pigeonholed.
This is pretty much the reason I stopped writing and overseeing the Daily Daley. I knew I wanted to pursue journalism professionally and I didn’t want to be known as an unpaid writer of commentary. I wanted to do the kind of original reporting that I was linking to. I wanted to break stories, to investigate government wrongdoing, to inform the citizenry. In order to do all that, I knew I needed to be paid, to “turn pro” as it were. So I understand Dave when he says he didn’t want to be pigeonholed. I’ve even used the same word when talking about my situation.
Sympathetic as I am to Dave, one thing that he wrote made me righteously angry and that is the anti-blogger rhetoric:
In the first (and still best) “Austin Powers” film, a United Nations representative makes a faux pas and calls the film’s villain “Mr. Evil.”
“It’s Dr. Evil,” he huffs. “I didn’t spend six years in Evil Medical School to be called ‘mister,’ thank you very much.”
This is how I feel when I’m referred to as a “blogger,” sometimes with a political qualifier like “liberal” or “conservative” attached. I’m a reporter. I’ve been a reporter since high school.
Haven’t we had enough of this bloggers-are-not-journalists meme? Being a blogger simply means that one utilizes blogging software to post content to the Internet. Some bloggers are journalists and some journalists are bloggers. Some are only one or the other. Please, let’s stop being offended by these labels. And Dave, you should really know better. Christ, if Jay Rosen thought this debate was over in 2005, you and everyone else should MOVE ON.