Where Have All the Manly Journalists Gone?


Mark Judge writes: Ernest Hemingway. Ernie Pyle. Jack London. Christopher Hitchens.

Whatever happened to journalism as a manly profession?

While newspapers and magazines have always attracted many types of writers, the most notable journalists often gained fame and recognition through their bravery in the face of extreme conditions. Hemingway and Pyle were war veterans. Hunter Thompson took on the Hell’s Angels and paid for it with a severe beating. Christopher Hitchens earned his scars through decades of dangerous stories and by challenging the orthodoxies of the culture.


Somehow names like Dana Milbank, Christopher Hayes, and Don Lemon don’t equally inspire.

My father was a writer and editor for National Geographic for thirty years, from roughly 1960 to 1990. From him I got my earliest impression of what a journalist did. A journalist—like a good male novelist—was a man who would go away for several months on a story assignment, usually to exotic-sounding places: Borneo, Australia, Thailand, the North Pole. He would have adventures and, if he was single, might even experience a James Bond-like liaison with a lady or two. Dad would return home tanned, sweaty, sometimes sick and disheveled. And the stories! Almost capsizing in the Caribbean while searching for the spot where Columbus landed in the New World; being chased by government censors for taking pictures in the old Soviet Union; contracting a life-threatening fever in Africa after being warned by a medicine man to not take anything out of the country.


There was an intense physicality to my father’s job; journalism was a job of grit and hard effort, like boxing. There was also a correlation between the roughness of the reporter’s life and the quality of his work. Being in danger, or even knowing that someone you wrote about might want to confront you physically, made you care about honor and accuracy. Jack London, author of Call of the Wild, was a hard-drinking oyster pirate and world traveler who risked his life reporting on the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Russell Baker knew the dirty Depression-era streets of New York.


Eric Sevareid of CBS got his start reporting World War II from Europe, but that was only the beginning of his career of derring-do. As the New York Times obituary of Sevareid noted in 1992, “His was an adventurous life, which included a harrowing month among headhunters in the Burmese jungles. That was in 1943, after the plane in which he was riding developed engine trouble as it was flying over the Himalayas from India to China. Mr. Sevareid and 19 others had to bail out on the India-Burma border but made it out of the jungle on foot.”

[Read the full text here, at Acculturated]

Ernest Hemingway began as a journalist, and his experience in the First World War gave his work an introspective and poetic quality, as well as a hunger for pursuing the truth. There were no Twitter wars, with their childish resentment and petty back and forth of gotchas and ad hominem attacks. If two journalists had a beef with each other they dealt with it mano a mano.


My father died in 1996. One year earlier Bill Gates wrote a memo outlining “The Coming Internet Tidal Wave.” Increasingly journalism didn’t require street smarts or derring-do; it often didn’t require journalists to leave their desks at all. Anyone with a blog could set himself up as an authority. In many ways this has been a very good thing, an explosion of writing and commentary that has created an army of citizen journalists who can write about whatever they want and can instantly fact-check the mainstream media.

And yet, journalism hasn’t improved….(read more)


One Comment on “Where Have All the Manly Journalists Gone?”

  1. bwcarey says:

    the world of political correctness offered them pay rises and they deserted the ship of life for short term gain i suppose..am i allowed say that!

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