My first "real" job was with a trade magazine. The publisher was
a scruffy old guy who had moved from newspaper journalism to
magazine publisher over a career that spanned decades. He knew a
lot about the craft and a lot of people in the business. He was
a likeable guy, but definitely no nonsense. His name was (and
still is) Bob. Walker, not Knight. More about Bob in a minute.
came to my love of writing though the door marked "literature"
and by the path of "creativity." In this particular milieu
journalism was almost a curse word.
Journalism was for hacks. Literature
was for the better of us. Now the really stupid thing about this
is that my aspirations were firmly aimed at a job in publishing!
On the book side of things, you
could call it a literary pursuit. But magazines, which is where
I was looking to go, was all about journalism. That was a
revelation that I came to rather late, with the help of Bob.
Being a creative writer type,
naturally, writing was a time consuming labor of love. It could
take hours to write a single paragraph, and days to polish off
an entire article. Even though a monthly magazine's deadlines
are far from as aggressive as a daily newspaper, they still come
pretty fast. Time is not something you have a lot of for
producing what I soon learned to call "copy."
Although, I'm not fond of that term.
Bob would give me an assignment
first thing in the morning that would involve research (the
pre-Internet, go to the library, kind of research) and
interviewing (by phone or in person), and expect a polished
3,000 - 5,000 word article by the end of the day.
My creative literary sensibilities
screamed in protest, knowing that it was impossible to create a
finely crafted piece of literature in such a short time. Which
is somewhat true but not entirely accurate.
As Bob was able to bore into my
brain, good writing doesn't always have to be fine literature.
And creativity has many faces, one of which is good journalism,
which, when done well, is quite literate. In short order I soon
learned how to accomplish exactly what he required, producing
decent material quickly.
It is possible and it can actually
be fun, even though it's always hard work. I also learned that
good journalism is also sometimes produced after hours and days
and weeks of research and writing, requiring tremendous
creativity, and resulting in both excellent journalism and fine
A couple of excellent journalistic
writers are Anna Quindlen and Tom Wolfe. Tracy Kidder is one as
well with his excellent book-length dives into single topics,
such as The Soul of a New Machine and House.
Journalistic writers come in every
hue and tone, covering an even broader array of content. Most
can write about nearly anything. I've not met a subject yet that
I couldn't write about once it was researched. The quality of
the research is key.
Herein are a few examples of
journalism. You'll also find "non-journalistic" writing in the
form of short fiction and a few poems. Some items have been
published elsewhere on paper. Some haven't. Thus, a hash
(gallimaufry, hodge podge, odds and ends, salmagundi, farrago*)
By the way, Bob passed away only a
few years ago at 95. You can read more about him here:
* More synonyms for hash: gallimaufry, salmagundi, farrago,
olio, hodgepodge, conglomeration, crazy quilt, goulash, jumble,
medley, miscellany, mishmash, mixed bag, motley, melange, odds
and ends, olla podrida, omnium gatherum, pastiche, patchwork,