During my long and mostly undistinguished career as a newspaper editor, I was sometimes asked about my favorite portrayals of journalists on television or in the movies. Was it Dustin Hoffman or Robert Redford as Woodward and Bernstein in “All the President’s Men,” or perhaps Edward Asner in the title role for “Lou Grant?” Nope, Dutton Peabody, editor of the original Shinbone Star, gets my vote.
Peabody, played brilliantly by Edmond O’Brien in the 1962 western “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” was a newspaperman’s newspaperman, verbose, often drunk, and unafraid in the face of violent opposition.
We could use a few more like Dutton Peabody today, in a world grown increasingly hostile for working journalists, thanks largely to a new president who has labeled the media Public Enemy #1 (although I know a few Mexicans and Muslims who might challenge that ranking).
Then there’s chief propaganda minister Stephen Bannon, who wants all journalists to “shut our mouths,” presumably to allow his “alternate facts” to go unchallenged.
Nope, not gonna do it, and that’s why I’ve been recruiting some of the great former journalists I worked with to help me here with The Shinbone Star. All our panties are in such a twist that many of us are coming out of retirement, sorta, to face this new tyrannical threat. Unlike Bannon, we won’t publish lies here, but we’ll also not be fettered by old-fashioned journalistic traditions like being unbiased.
Unbiased? Look what being unbiased got us!
For 33 years I was unbiased, sacrificing my rights as a U.S. citizen in order to uphold journalistic ideals I felt were sacred. For three decades and change, I did not publicly support ANY candidate. Never once did I put a political sign in my yard, contribute to a political campaign, or even place a bumper sticker on my car. We journalists always knew that fairness was our bread and butter, and by god, we took it seriously.
For what? Readers moved in droves to free internet sites that were openly biased, a huge factor in putting many great journalists on the street. Contrary to popular opinion, journalists, too, gotta eat, and we have families to feed and mortgages to pay. As for journalism, Americans got what they paid for, and the results are as we see them.
Even though I’m no longer in the business, I will always self-identify as a journalist, and I don’t appreciate getting bitch-slapped by the 45th president, being called “dishonest” when I know damn sure that I never was, and the same goes for the hundreds of men and women I worked alongside during all those political campaigns on all those late nights over all those many years.
So everything is different now, and that’s why I relish the chance to say all those things I never dared say before. I can openly support whoever the hell I want, and here’s something else I can do: I can say that Donald Trump and his sorry band of Nazis and KKK sympathizers pose the greatest threat to this nation’s core values since, well, since forever! I’m proud to say that I did not vote for Donald Trump, I will not support Donald Trump, and I will do everything in my power to thwart Donald Trump and his dangerous, racist policies at every turn.
Oh we’re just getting started here at The Shinbone Star, but I hope the pace picks up rapidly as more of my friends and former colleagues enter the fray. Some will write under their own names while others might use a nom de plume, but I don’t care, we’re dropping the gloves, and the traditional rules of unbiased journalism won’t apply here.
While we’re getting organized, I’ll slowly start moving some previously published material from my other blog, Roamin’ Gnomials, to this site. Roamin’ Gnomials, meanwhile, will return to something more in line with its original mission of ridiculousness, which will probably be a happy occasion for some regular readers who have grown weary of all the political content.
In the movies, Dutton Peabody took a savage beating at the hands of Liberty Valance, just like journalists today are taking a beating at the hands of Donald Trump, all for trying to do the right thing. That’s why I’m pretty sure Peabody would approve of what we’re doing here, and give a boozy nod to my closing words for Trump and Bannon: Fuck you!