Tonight, I was digging into Andrew Romano’s delicious nine-page oral history of print Newsweek. I was daydreaming about three-martini lunches and adventures and an editorial process that dragged, dragged, dragged until suddenly, production night was there and everyone was drunk and all the words were beautiful.
It’s not the drunkenness that appealed to me so much as the adventures, the stories of Sherpas dragging a Jeep through the mud and a bartender who said, “You guys are from Newsweek? You should probably know the president’s been shot.” I was nostalgic. I wanted to be that kind of reporter in that kind of world.
And then this section smacked me in the face.
Nora Ephron, researcher (1962-63): For every man there was an inferior woman.
Howard: We had the weirdest things to do. Somebody needed their reading glasses delivered. Go get Sam’s reading glasses. You get a key to Sam’s apartment. Or go get somebody’s dry cleaning. If you were a good girl, and did a good job, put the mail in the right slots, then you got promoted, after a few months, to clipping the newspapers. And that was…you were on your way to becoming a researcher. If you could handle that: rolling the papers out properly, cutting the rows straight, and putting the clippings in the right boxes. Then you got to be a researcher, and then the fun began. Then you got to check facts, and be the boys’ backstop. That was the training program. But you could never be a writer.
Ephron: They were the artists, and we were the drones.
Oh. Of course.
I would have been a drone.
And here’s the thing: I’m not. I’m not a drone, and neither are any of the incredible, talented female journalists I know. We are writers and interviewers and coders and editors and BS-detectors and storytellers and innovators, but we are not drones.
So you can idealize the Newsweek — and the media — of old. You can decry everything we lost when we lost those ink-stained pages. And you can take your three martini lunch, if you’d like.
But I’ll take the digital age. And I’ll take the opportunities.