Jimmy Goes To J School

     My young friend next door, the product of a lawyer and another lawyer, has decided to betray the family legacy. He’s going to journalism school.
     “My parents are all upset,” Jimmy told me over a double latte something or other at the local Starbucks.
     “Well, they are proud lawyers,” I said.
     “Sure, full credit. But they act like I was going to become a, a, I don’t know, a writer.”
     I almost spilled my almost-coffee. “Mercy! I can see how that would upset them.”
     “I know, I know. But I told them I had no intention of being a poor writer. You know, I mean, not making any money.” He sighed. “They just don’t see the difference.”
     “They’re old school, like me.”
     “Yeah. What was that like? Kind of primitive, huh? Typewriters and stuff?”
     I tried not to sink into a nostalgic haze for the good old days. Big black Royal and Underwood typewriters that built bulging little muscles on my fingers. Writing to deadline every day at 11 in the morning. Grilling politicians, local ones, national ones, big ones, small ones. Fighting for the truth. Those were the days. Oh yes.
     “Hello! Hello!” Jimmy was snapping his fingers in my face when I came to. “Whew, I thought you were a goner,” he said.
     “Just reminiscing,” I muttered.
     “What’s that?”
     I said it louder.
     “No,” he said, “what’s that word mean? Remincing?”
     “You’ll have to investigate it with a dictionary,” I said a tad sharply.
     “I can look it up on my computer. The internet.”
     “Typerwriters didn’t have dictionaries. We kept a Websters in the desk drawer.”
     “The good old days, huh?” he said, looking quite concerned.
     “They were.” I sipped whatever I was drinking. It wasn’t that old newsroom coffee, that’s for sure. “Where are you going to school?”
     “Giant Journalism School, in the MidWest.” His eyes lit up as he no doubt reveled in fantasies of hot journalism chicks pursuing him while he broke the big stories.
     “And once you get your degree, then what? You have a plan, right?”
     “Of course. I’ll go to work for the New York Times or the L.A. Times, and work my way up to foreign correspondent.”
     “Ambitious. How long will that take?”
     “I figure a year. Yup, a year. And then I’ll come back and get work at one of the big TV networks covering the big stuff.”
     “Another year?”
     “I figure.”
     “You’ll want to get friendly with the powerful people in Washington, no?”
     “Well, sure, you got to do that to succeed.” He leaned back, looking at me appraisingly, which didn’t work too well because he has a lot of freckles. “It’s not like the old days.”
     “Oh,” I said, feeling suddenly creaky. “What do you think they were like?”
     “You guys made it hard on yourselves, always being antagonistic to the politicians and the like. That just makes it difficult to get them to tell you anything.”
     “Ah. It’s true. We had to work at it. Get down in the dirt and dig.”
     “Yeah, see. That’s the old way.” He pointed a finger at my chest. “We journalists work smarter these days.”
     “How’s that?”
     “We get friendly with the powerful people. Don’t ask questions that upset them. Shake their hands. Bow our heads. Agree with them. That’s the real key to winning their confidence. You got to agree with them.”
     “Ah. And once you’ve won them over, then what?”
     “Well, then they tell you what’s going on. They give you information, instead of making you dig for it.”
     It was quite an improvement on the old ways, I had to admit. The money these modern reporters must save on antacid pills and blood pressure medicine must be huge.
     “Jimmy,” I said, “how do you know that they’re telling you the truth?”
     “Simple. Do you lie to your friends?”
     Well, sometimes, but I wasn’t going to tell him that. “Of course not.”
     “So if I’m their friend they’ll deal straight with me, right?”
     I nodded my head sagely.
     “So getting the straight dope from them will help me move up the ladder in my career, right?”
     “Sounds like you’ve got the process nailed, Jimmy. How high do you think you can go?”
     “Oh, all the way, all the way. I’m a smart guy, you know that.”
     He was. I’d known him since he was a first grader. He always seemed to know the angles that got him ahead in grade school and beyond. Must be those lawyer genes.
     “How will you know when you’ve reached the top of your profession?” I asked. It’s important to set markers so you’ll know when you’ve accomplished your goals.
     “Oh, that’s easy. Remember that correspondent’s dinner a while back, the one where Karl Rove was dancing?”
     “Uh huh,” I said, suddenly wishing for some stomach medicine.
     “And remember David Gregory, that big time news guy, the one who has such a big future at the network?”
     “Sure,” I mumbled.
     “Well, when I’m up there dancing with Karl Rove like David Gregory was, that’s when I’ll know.” He sat back and beamed at me.
     I wished him luck and gave him what was left of my coffee drink.
     “I have to go read a book,” I said.
     “What’s that?” he called out.


3 Responses

  1. From the sounds of it, it’ll take young Jimmy far less than a year to make it to the pinnacle.

    He’s got modern journalism pegged to a T.

  2. Dammit — syndicate your column. Help wake people up.

    • Hell, they’ll just hit the snooze button again.

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