This little behind-the-scenes video of a weight-lifting Fox News reporter bragging about his messy desk (“He has the cluttered desk to prove how busy he is” . . . “Any reporter that has a neat desk isn’t a reporter”) made me instantly, weirdly furious.
Nothing against this objectively hardcore and impressive reporter and his fire-trap desk.
My inner ’90s feminist is just super tired of hearing good writing and reporting equated with being a slob / being an asshole / drinking your feelings / guy’s guydom.
I know and like and admire plenty of guys who fit this prototype. But it’s not the only way to do this job. In plenty of newsrooms I have been in, there was this kind of hard-nosed, martini-drinking, messy reporter who got shit done, but also plenty of fastidious, sunny, everything-in-moderation reporters who got shit done, and plenty of both kinds who did nothing at all.
Why the hell did this throwaway comment bother me so much? I think because that way of thinking about writing — and especially investigative reporting, a breathtakingly macho world — can stealthily make you think you don’t belong in such a job if you are, say, a tidy young girl dreaming of going into journalism, regardless of how good you may be at it.
I bristle when I hear about how a writer or reporter is supposed to look or behave. The concept that “real reporters” only come one way is insidious.
I was having lunch with a journalist friend the other day. She and I realized that for years we had believed that good writers were supposed to be hard-drinking, gruff, and messy. And so we had tried hard drinking, gruffness, and messiness out as part of trying to become writers.
From childhood, for instance, I cultivated bad handwriting, because I thought to be a real writer you couldn’t possibly have anything as dot-your-i’s-with-hearts prissy as good penmanship.
Mostly I’ve overcome this anxiety. Today, I have my thousands of contacts in neat Excel spreadsheets. I clean my desk compulsively. I believe that having everything in its place makes my life easier and my work better. And yet, I never will be able to hand-write a legible grocery list.