Man, that hourlong retraction from “This American Life” was a tough listen. I didn’t catch it all, but what I heard basically constituted every journalist’s nightmare: “You have fucked up, and been caught at it, and in failing to catch you ourselves we have fucked up. And now we are going to discuss our fraternal fucking up at length, in public.”
Anyone who has ever worked for “the media” has fucked up. It goes with the territory. You crank out a pile of word count, audio or video for the 24/7 news cycle it is not a question of if you will fuck up, but when, and how big. And it sure doesn’t help when one of your contributors decides to salt his or her work with a few fictions.
I no longer consider myself a journalist. I’ve rassled with school boards, cops and managing editors—the last of these is the worst—but back in the Eighties I abandoned the manly arts and took up sportswriting with a focus on cycling. And now I spend my workdays debating the voices in my head.
These days I call myself a rumormonger, because I mong rumors, whenever I’m not just flat making shit up. This is much easier than doing real journalism, or even pretending to.
And no one is outraged or even surprised when I say that Rick Santorum is an expert on pornography because he is a dildo, or Mitt Romney is the sort of robot that Microsoft would build, or that Apple makes its iPads out of Chinese babies.
• Late update: The New York Times’ David Carr addresses the issue at length, with more wit and fewer fucks.