NEWS JUNKIE by Jason Leopold
May 9, 2006, 19:17
NEWS JUNKIE by Jason Leopold; 2006, Process Media
All issues with Leopold and his brand of “journalism” aside, I read this book in two short days. It's a compelling page-turner, packed with remorseless assaults on several high-profile journalists as well as the hollow institution of journalism that is the mainstream media. It's also a tale of a coke addiction that can only be described as peerless—his cravings make the blow-filled antics of Motley Crue in The Dirt look like frat boy beer bash follies. I mean, this guy was hooked in three months, as he tells it, no easy feat for even the most addictive among us mere mortals. Leopold tells of selling promo CDs for whiff at the behest of a coupla NYC Guidosâ€¦ polishing off rails as he finished stories on deadline for a small news service in LAâ€¦ and fucking up so big time and so routinely that he lost most every job he ever had because of sheer incompetence or at least the perception of such. Blowing it at Dow Jones Newswires, being fired in the wake of a libel suit, at another place, a grand theft conviction: how can you not like this guy?
Reporters are an ugly lot, mostly driven by a self-absorbed need to be important. They are the high school band kids and the yearbook staff that some of us beat the shit out of in high school, stealing their lunch money for beer and vandalizing their cars. I know—I was a daily news reporter for 12 years. I had to work with these geeks, and I watched as they strove to inject their biases, opinions and ego into stories, the very copy that some people regard as truth. (for pure documentation of journo-gone-haywire, check out the book Death by Journalism?, by Jerry Bledsoe. It's the story of a cowardly, yellow journalist named Ethan Feinsilver who made false claims that a community college history class in North Carolina was teaching a pro-white version of Civil War history).
Jason Leopold, though, is no Feinsilver. He has much bigger balls and while some of his reporting techniques are questionable—burning and lying to sources—he was the man who actually brought much of the Enron fiasco to light.
Leopold secured a job as bureau chief of the LA office of Dow Jones Newswires—owned by Dow Jones, which also owns the Wall Street Journal. Of his colleagues at the Journal, he says “most of the Journal reporters I met were egotistical pricks who wouldn't give me the time of day.” He speaks the truth. Those egotistical pricks endured years of swirlies and wedgies to get their byline in a newspaper. These are miserable people who deserve no respect, and Leopold, thankfully, gives them none.
So when he depicts WSJ reporter Rebecca Smith, co-author of 24 Days and an esteemed journalist, as “Herman Munster's sisterâ€¦ her head was shaped like a perfect square,” well, right on man.
Leopold's story has a sad end, albeit a deserved one even by his own telling. He is booted from Dow Jones in disgrace after years of mistakes, and ends up writing for online news groups including truthout.org, counterpunch.org and alternet, where, most recently, he reported that Karl Rove was going to be indicted. Hold your breath.
But the author is now embracing a medium, the alternative press, that should be given much more credence than it gets. While truthout.org and the Drudge Report have more misses than hits, the stories that major papers omit are generally more telling than the tall tales they provide. And people like Leopold, thankfully, are out there getting the scraps we need to hear about. Sometimes they even get it right.