When you’re an investigative journalist, editor, careerist of that sort, a lot of your relationships start off with one or both of the people thinking the other one is a federal agent of some sort. Or perhaps a spy for the mob or a police department—you never know! It’s a sad reality for those of us in underpaid gigs that nevertheless, at least on rare occasions, place us in harm’s way, whether via exposure to asbestos or some kind of government scandal. As a result, a lot of the time when somebody writes me a complimentary email or DM, I am far more suspicious of their motives than I am appreciative of the sentiment.
We are a leathery bunch, us hacks, especially more sentimental suckers like your boy, who have been chasing ideals set by brilliant but moronic alcoholic alpha geeks like Hunter S. Thompson and Christopher Hitchens. I can’t speak for other writers, but for me, that whole shtick has sometimes led to pretending that I don’t give a damn about how readers feel about the work we do around here. Which of course is not the case.
Probably in part because macho men like me go around acting like we don’t need or want external approval, we don’t get—surprise—a whole lot of external approval. Not too many love notes, if you know what I mean. Just plenty of hatred and stupidity directed at us.
Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely fringe benefits—from free concert tickets, to easy access to virtually anything and anyone, to an occasional shoutout from one of the media-on-media sites that only other journalism nerds read—but all of that is easily outweighed by the anxiety and even PTSD that too often inflict certain kinds of reporters. In a 2019 study in the Newspaper Research Journal (I didn’t know there was such a thing either, but it turns out it’s been around for 40 years) titled “Journalists and mental health: The psychological toll of covering everyday trauma,” researcher Natalee Seely found:
Journalists are often first responders and eyewitnesses to violent news events. Trauma reporting can take its toll, resulting in mental health effects. Addressing the solution requires understanding the problem. This multimethod study used a national survey of journalists (N = 254) that shows that as trauma coverage frequency and intensity increase, so does the severity of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.
Seely also found that “common coping mechanisms include … purging emotions, talking about trauma, and remembering their jobs’ higher purposes.” And so here I am, doing that.
I also want to thank Eileen, whose real name I won’t share to avoid the risk of some unhinged ignoramus trolling her. For every 50 right-wing roaches who wreak havoc on my nerves, there is only one Eileen, who just three weeks ago sent me her latest care package. A longtime reader who also sometimes emails over affirmations, she is a positive force and benevolent booster, even if at first I suspected that she worked for a covert agency that’s hellbent on subverting badass independent publications. It turns out she’s just a kind and sharing person, and so, inspired by Eileen and a small cast of others in my life who build people up rather than tear them down, I’m making it my goal for 2020 to be more of a supporter—of friends, of musicians, artists, and makers of all kinds.
For starters, check out the “What’s Right With Boston?” piece in this week’s feature section. It’s uncharacteristically flowery, hopefully stopping just short of naive.
CHRIS FARAONE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF