The other day, I was eating at a local eating place when I overheard a conversation between another customer and a waitress.
The customer, who happened to be from out of town, commented that most journalists are jackals. "Not all of them, but most of them are just there to take advantage of tragedy," said the man I shall call Mr. Snipe.
Now if Snipe had invited me to respond , I would have a variety of options to choose from.
One would be that people in many occupations make their living off of misfortune. Doctors and other health care workers, undertakers, law enforcement officers, insurance adjusters, EMTs and all other emergency response professionals earn their livings because bad things happen to people. To some extent, so do journalists.
However this would be misleading. The people who Snipe was probably referring to are the talking heads on national television but the majority of journalists work at newspapers and the majority of these work at small to medium sized newspapers covering such things as community and school events, fund raising activities, school board meetings, city council meetings and human interest stories.
This is not to say that small town reporters necessarily shy away from controversy nor that we should, it's just that controversy does not represent most of our daily output of material. It is the most well read part of what we produce but not the biggest portion of it.
I was tempted to ask Snipe whether he was more familiar with the latest actions of his local school board or with the latest developments in the Michael Jackson trial. If he was like most people, the actions of any local government entity are far down on the list of his actual interests and the grotesque things the jackals drag into his living room are fairly high on his list of interests.
I believe I'm less interested than many people in the scandalous behavior of celebrities and the more bizarre and gruesome crimes, but the only people who have no interest at all in those things ride around in horse drawn buggies and light their homes with kerosene lanterns.
I have a feeling that those buggy riding people really aren't that bothered by the talking heads of television.
I also heard a more positive assessment of our profession this week. Marty Zauhar, city council member, noted at the last meeting that the Chronicle Times had given a preview article of the meeting.
Zauhar indicated that people can keep on top of what's happening by reading the newspaper or listening to the local radio station.
Thanks Marty, but most people are too busy watching the jackals at work and getting indignant over it.