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Davis, California

Monday, May 20, 2024

Variations on a Theme

Just a week ago, I was put in an awkward situation. It wasn’t quite F My Life worthy, but it wasn’t mundane enough to post on Mylifeisaverage.com.

Long story short: AGTV put me in front of a camera and interviewed me.

Okay, so maybe it doesn’t sound that bad, and it wasn’t. Other than a bee hovering dangerously close to the reporter’s neck during filming, me peppering unrehearsed answers with nervous laughter and breaking the fourth wall by giving the camera a smile, wink and thumbs up when the interview was over, it really wasn’t bad at all.

Almost as interesting as being put on the spot was being able to observe what would normally be my role.

I come from the reporter’s end of journalism. I research, I gather, I ask the questions – I’m not meant to be the interviewed, the quoted, the sourced.

Which is exactly why doing this column was so difficult. It’s tough enough to come up with 20 inches of at the very least minimally entertaining text when you also have a job and schoolwork to do, but to have my name and face advertised along with it, telling readers around the Coho, “Look everyone, this chick wrote this! This is what she thinks! And oh hey, she looks like this!”? Strange, to say the least.

Thinking over this led me to my next question: what are journalist stereotypes? On a more self-indulgent note: Do I fall under any?

In the film and television realm, journalism has more or less been portrayed as a stylishly busy profession: hunting for the latest scoop, digging for sources, tapping furiously on a keyboard surrounded by stacks of important documents, demanding your editor give you an extension because your story’s so important, goddamnit, and then ultimately winning something like the Pulitzer Prize.

Don’t get me wrong: When it’s good, it’s really good. Having a legitimate reason to pick people’s brains apart with questions is always fun, and finally getting a story pieced together and on the server for editing is one of the most satisfying feelings ever.

But these dramatic reproductions conveniently edit out other things: following style guides, sifting through the daily e-mails from publicity people, calling and re-calling people you know have to be included in the story, living off of a well-rounded diet of Coho pizza and cake (I recommend the pumpkin!) and feeling slightly validated that your story was picked up on Uwire.com. Glamorous, I know.

Then we’ve got the negative side of journalism – the picture of the cutthroat workaholic. There’s the trashy (Courteney Cox, Scream), the ambitious but ball-breaking writer (Kate Winslet, The Life of David Gale), the relentless, power-hungry newshound (Christina Applegate, Anchorman), the fat and eccentric recluse (Russell Crowe, State of Play) and that one writer who watched his own dog die (Owen Wilson, Marley and Me).

In reality, one of the bitchiest things about journalism is deadline. A close runner up for J-douche would be writer’s block. Third, the man.

Of course, I can’t finish a column on journalist stereotypes without addressing the image of the talented but alcohol-dependent writer. In the March 2007 article “New York’s Drunkest Journalists” on Gawker.com, one reader commented, “Being a nasty drunk is like a prerequisite to be a journalist, no?” News I can use? Perhaps. Or maybe that’s something they only teach you in J-School.


RACHEL FILIPINAS thinks that cheesing in her column mugs is a good start for her headshots. Beg to differ at rmfilipinas@ucdavis.edu.


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