Reporter Walks Into a Bar…

What a pleasant surprise to see Plattsburgh’s Monopole bar appear in a New York Times story. I spent many hours in the Monopole as a college student. It wasn’t my favorite haunt, but we’d often end the night there grabbing a slice of scalding hot pizza.

It would come right out of the oven and burn the hell out of your mouth. A sober and sensible person would wait for it to cool; we were neither. In the morning, you were not just hung over, but you had shreds of skin hanging down from the roof of your mouth. Good times.

But about that story. A Times reporter made the rounds of the North Country collecting theories about what happened to those two escaped murderers. Among the opinions was that of longtime Monopole bartender Gail Coleman, who posited that they ran off to Italy. Hey, why not?

Stories like this one show why it’s great to be a newspaper reporter. You can go around and talk to people, like in a bar for example, and whip up a pretty good piece. Your story comes from conversation.

Compare this to what it’s like being a TV reporter. Weighed down with a big camera and lights, the moment you walk in, all intimacy is lost and artificiality takes over. Plus, a certain type of person is attracted to TV news crews. What’s the word I’m looking for… oh, yes: yahoos. If you don’t think people act strangely when cameras are on, go home and turn on TLC or Discovery.

A lot of people won’t talk with a camera pointed in their face — not the way they’ll talk to some guy with a notebook who’s drinking a beer. I once had a TV reporter try telling me I was wrong about this; I guess that’s what happens when you inhale hair spray fumes for so many years.

It makes you wonder why anyone would do that job. The stagey interviews, reliance on pictures to tell your story, merciless time constraints — meanwhile some newspaper reporter is sitting in the Monopole chatting up Gail, all the while coming up with something better than any work you’ll ever do, all in his head.

God, I’m going to miss newspapers.

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