Can't work with your hands? Bad at math? Become a journalist

Dateline: Wed 16 Apr 2008

Some guy who calls himself Exploding Unicorn has told the truth, finally, about why people become reporters, and then why they un-become reporters.

He's only 22 years old, so he still has a license to speak with the bracing candor of youth. Seems he wrote a farewell column for the paper -- it's one of those rinky-dink news operations where reporters take turns writing columns -- and his last day happened to coincide with his column assignment. But because he devoted his column to telling the truth about why he was leaving and what his lousy job was really like, the paper of course never published it. So he posted it on his blog. (God love the Interweb).

The link is at the bottom. You must go there because, as good as the writing is, the photos are equally funny: an image shows the dreary street scenery around the newspaper's employee entrance. "Most of Schindler's List was actually filmed in this alley," he writes.

Also, this:

"Journalism is one of those fields you enter when you think you can make the world a better place and leave when you realize you can make your own world better simply by getting a different job. In terms of the raw altruism required, working for a newspaper is kind of like doing a stint in the Peace Corps, only the hours are worse and everybody hates you."

And this:

"Looking back, I'm not sure why I decided to be a reporter. When it comes to making major life choices, the sheer selfishness of my decision-making process is admirably consistent. I suspect I chose that field because I can't work with my hands and I'm bad at math. That limited my realistic job opportunities to journalism and kickboxing. I went for the one with the better 401(k) plan, but unfortunately there weren't any kickboxing leagues hiring at the time."

Here's the link:

The reader who kindly sent it this way speculated on other "last column" writers who may also have wanted to tell the gutty real story, but chickened out. Now we can all live vicariously through Unicorn.

As for myself, I was tempted to simply quote the great Holden Caulfield, the fictional anti-hero of my youth. Upon leaving one of the many prep schools he was kicked out of, Holden stood at midnight on an icy hill overlooking the campus and hollered at the top of his lungs: "Sleep tight, ya morons!"

But they never would have printed it.


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