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Tuesday, August 25, 2020

I re-watched "Spotlight" last night and remembered what the movie got so right: investigative journalism ain't sexy.

It's almost never like "All the President's Men," where there are secret meetings in parking garages and danger lurks at every key click of the typewriter.

Investigative journalism is boring as the reporter pours over records and files and makes dozens of usually calls. It includes countless rebuffs when knocking on doors and tracking down thread for the story that turns up in a dead end.

I once poured through 1,300 emails from a public election committee, the vast majority of which were as stupid as most emails all of us exchange. Recipes and jokes and -- oh God -- the repeated memes that people think are so funny or meaningful.

One public records request resulted in a box of 600 pages of documents landing on my desk. "So there goes the weekend," I thought. I didn't share that thought with my then-wife or toddler but I suppose that could be one of the many reasons I use the phrase "then-wife."

On one staff, we collected every drunk driving arrest in our coverage area for an entire year into a database to study the realities and not the assumptions about operating while intoxicated. It was just 15 minutes a day day but multiply that by 365 days. And only after that did the reporting start.

In the first case, it changed the way public officials used their official emails.

In the second, the stories resulted in 10 felony charges of malfeasance.

In the last case, state law was changed to increase penalties based on higher blood alcohol percentages.

None of it involved talking to Hal Holbrook in the dark.

God, I miss it so.

Someone, give me a damn newsroom.

Peace and insights unto you my brothers and sisters.


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