Breaking through the stereotypes about newspaper reporters

March 29, 2001

Breaking through the stereotypes about newspaper reporters

When you think of a newspaper reporter what comes to mind?

Well, I have bad news. Most of the stereotypes have to be replaced, especially in my case.

Let's look at some of the stereotypes:

* Reporters wear fedora hats, like in the movie "The Front Page."

I have a fedora but only wear it for Halloween. Hats seen at work lately are baseball caps, and that's on Friday - casual day.

* A flask filled with alcohol in a desk drawer?

I have water bottles on or near my desk as I try to do my body a favor and drink six bottles daily. And I snack on granola bars and fruits.

I bet you never saw Lou Grant drinking water and eating a banana for breakfast, but that's my common fare in the morning. And Grant would definitely not be happy to see me taking vitamins at lunch.

* Coffee cup constantly in hand?

When I need a jolt of caffeine, I break both the present and past molds, preferring cola to coffee. And even tea to coffee. A lot of people drink both hot and iced tea here, which is not exactly something you'd think after watching the move "The Paper." But I have to say, the coffeepot here still gets a lot of use.

* An old typewriter with which all rules about ergonomics are violated?

We are all on iMacs these days. Makes one wonder what a journalist of yore would think of a turquoise computer with an apple on it ... toss it into a trash can?

* Pipes and cigarettes?

I just say "no" to anything that might further cause asthma problems. While some smoke - only in designated areas, i.e. outside - most of us don't.

* Taking over bars after work while we discuss current events? Going out after work to get drunk with other reporters?

Sorry, another myth shattered. I don't think that happens in the newsroom anymore, and if it does ... well, someone forgot to invite me.

Instead, some go home to their families. Others go home to watch television. Being the oddball, I'm more likely found reading a book while riding on an exercise bike at the Hagerstown YMCA or with my feet up at home, listening to music while answering e-mails to friends.

* Reporters and editors shouting "rewrite!"?

When someone wants me to rewrite a story, there is no shouting. The editor uses a mouse to send the story back to me.

Exciting, no?

Sorry to break the stereotypes.

If it helps, I'll raise my water bottle and make a toast in your direction.

Rest assured, there are ways we reporters haven't changed.

We - at least no one working for The Herald-Mail - still don't fabricate quotes.

We will protect the anonymity of our sources if necessary, even if it means going to jail.

And we will not be intimidated - not even by Lou Grant.

Scott Butki covers Washington County government for The Herald-Mail. Send e-mail to him at

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