I was thinking about it yesterday, and two men who have done some of the most impactful work in the past ten years had careers as newspapermen: David Axelrod, Barack Obama strategist/guru*, and David Simon, The Wire.
If you’ve ever written for a newspaper and learned the tools of that trade you can kind of see how the newspaper forged their particular visions of the world. The newspaper is a really important finishing school! Even though I never had a full-time job at a paper, I’ve freelanced for them for years (one in particular was one of those situations where, um, really I should’ve been working for them but… the economy) and I think they’ve made me a far better writer than I would be now. When I worked as an editor, I really had to wrestle contributions from bloggers to the ground so that they fit our established style/format/sounded professional, because the blogging voice is far different from the newspaper voice. (Conversely, and frequently, I have to be told to “put myself” in an article. It is not my first move.) I will always want to work for a newspaper, in some ways, but I would also have issues with any paper that isn’t one of the nation’s monoliths, where people need to make sure that it exists for future generations.
*Fun link: This is more of a hunch and not verified, but David Axelrod worked on Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s first campaign, selling him to a Massachusetts sick of Romney’s reign with a brilliant vague slogan: “Together We Can.” Patrick’s fine at his job, but I suspect when Obama was originally running for president, the Hope/Change thing smacked too much of the current Governorship to sound like anything other than a line. I think that’s part of the reason that MA went to H. Clinton in the primaries.