Monday, April 02, 2007

Give us a break....and a cigarette

We talk about alcohol a lot in the Collegian newsroom.

There’s drunk driving incidents on the front page, letters to the editor about the drinking culture on the opinion page and drink specials on the arts and entertainment page.

We cover alcohol-related legislation at the borough, state and federal level.

We figure that many, if not most, of our readers drink alcohol and are at least vaguely interested in reading about it.

Long story short, alcohol makes its way into the news pages quite frequently.

See Feb. 5 blog entry: Booze is news.

But it turns out some scholars think our culture’s affinity for substance abuse permeates the news media in other ways as well.

A Columbia Journalism Review blog recently published an entry dedicated to the history of drinking and drugging in the journalism world.

The winter 2007 volume of Journalism History, according to the CJR blog, includes an article titled “Depression, Drink and Dissipation,” which claims that more than a third of the 187 most famous journalists were “titanic drunks, pill-poppers, or opium-addicts.”

The periodical also claims that more than half of these figures were plagued by “depression, serious anxiety, or bipolar disorder.”

The article was written by Doug Underwood, a professor at the University of Washington.

In this space, we’ll refer to him as Captain Obvious.

I can attest to some of what Captain Obvious is trying to say with his research.

In fact, Captain Obvious is not that off base in his assertion that self-destructive behavior and/or mental instability often coincide with a choice of career in journalism.

I know a lot of journalists. I am one myself.

And health freaks we are not.

I realize I’m over generalizing here, but herein lies my point.

What career path (other than the blatantly obvious like personal trainer or professional athlete) allows its followers the luxury of health consciousness?

Where’s the profession in which no one stops at the bar on the way home to have a beer and light up a cigarette once in a while?

I just think we journalists get a bad rap.

Even if it is true that journalists engage in more self-destructive behavior or suffer from more mental illness than the rest of the population, how could you really blame us?

We deal with death and destruction.

We work crappy hours and are always on call.

It’s kinda like doctors – without the six-figure salary.