There’s been a lot of social-media anguish lately about journalists’ losing their jobs. It has not gone entirely unnoticed that journalists seem to be more alarmed by job losses in certain industries than in others, hence “Iowahawk” David Burge’s Twitter jibe, in response to a dolorous mention of layoffs in the media, that “355 job losses is a tragedy, 21 million job losses is a statistic.” (Bonus points for the allusion to a journalist-beloved dictator.)
It could happen to any of us, of course, myself very much included. I readily concede that many if not most if not all of the people laid off by Buzzfeed, Vice, Condé Nast, and (certainly!) The Economist are more talented, harder-working, and better at television/podcasting/pontificating at conferences than I am. The profession of journalism hangs by a thread, and capricious Fates are awfully snippy with the scissors.
Yet journalists are fundamentally misstating what’s going on. Let’s be honest: We’re not heroes. We’re not firefighters. We’re not selfless public servants. Don’t mistake us for a cross-breed of self-flagellating monks and fired-up paramedics. We’re in this game because it’s fun, because of what it does for us, not because we’re saints who defend the defenseless and give a voice to the voiceless. Those of us who are taking down bad guys, digging through court records, and exposing the nefarious doings of men in suits are not doing so primarily to benefit others but because it pleases us.