The job 

The Observer and Mr. Photographer were headed across town on our way to another press conference the other day when we got to talking about The Job. Newspaperin'. Getting the goods. Questing forth with notebook, pen and camera to bring back what average folks would never be privy to otherwise, often because there's somebody out there who would rather you not know. The best quote about journalism (other than, of course: "Your mother says she loves you? Check it out") is attributed to George Orwell, even though ol' George probably didn't say it. "Journalism," Orwell or some other wise soul said, "is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations." There have been times over the past dozen years that Mr. Photographer has literally lurked in the bushes with his long lens, scoping out a target who would rather not have been preserved for posterity in pursuit of doing more than public relations.

The Observer and Mr. Photographer have both labored here at the Fortress of Employment pretty much the same amount of years; which is to say, numerous. In that time, we've rolled many a mile onto the odometer together, traveling around the state, talking to folks, drinking roughly 60,000 gallons of truck stop coffee, often dragging back home long after sundown with the words and snaps that attempt to freeze a moment, person, place and mood like a bug in amber, to hopefully be polished and cut into a little jewel of understanding for you. Yes, you, Dear Reader. Mr. Photographer succeeds, without fail, in making Yours Truly look good week after week. Meanwhile, the best we can say about what The Observer does for him is: We usually drive the car, buy him an Egg McMuffin every once in a while and try to keep our big ass out of his shot. Over the years, we've learned to take a careful step back whenever we see the inky black snout of his camera loom into the periphery of our vision; to keep the sun at our shoulder in the morning and afternoon so as not to cast a looming, doublewide shadow into his frame. He, meanwhile, has perfected his ability to remember the questions The Observer fails to think of, forgets to ask, or is too dumb to pose. While we must admit that his interjecting questions during interviews irked us a bit early on — just who is the reporter here, bucko? — we can no longer count the times he's saved our thick hide from the shame of writing a correction or the hassle of a follow-up callback. Ours is a symbiotic relationship not unlike the little bird that perches on the back of rhinoceros. We are unclear at times on just who is the bird and who is the rhino.

Driving across town to the press conference earlier this week, we agreed that The Job is the best time we're ever likely to have while getting paid for it, both of us long past our potential prime as Chippendales dancers. There is nothing like it, the ol' Shutterbug said: throwing the strap of a bag over your shoulder, going places and talking to people, getting out into the sunshine instead of being tied to a desk. No feeling like it at all, and impossible to explain to anyone who has never done it. Yes, The Observer observed, no feeling like it. We motored on in silence for a block or two, trying to think of the word to explain it, even to each other, even though we have both been there and done that for years.

"It's the feeling of doing work you believe is important," The Observer said after a while. "Not everybody gets to do that."

The moment the words were out of our yap, they felt simultaneously so true and so pretentious that we decided to say nothing more. Luckily, we were at our destination by then. Inside, a man in a suit stood near a microphone, waiting to say things others would rather you didn't hear. For the millionth time, we piled out with our bags and checked our batteries and pens. Then we headed off in search of what you need to know, boss: the who, what, when, where and — most crucial of all, if one can find it in this confusing world — the why.


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