Reading surveys that proclaim journalism as one of the worst jobs in the world and the constant media bashing that has become the fad these days, one can easily get depressed being a journalist.
When I get into that zone, where I stop being inspired to do good journalism, or do the beat work that I need to, I try to remember that I belong to a tribe of great men and women who’ve inspired generations.
There are many I admire and look up to for inspiration. For this post, I’m just going to pick out a few great writers who’ve been journalists. Some of them died broke or depressed but they’ve made the world a richer place with their writing and journalism.
Christopher Hitchens: The ‘gadfly with gusto‘
Most people would say this about him: love him, hate him, but you just can’t ignore him. Christopher Hitchens was one of the foremost critics of organised religion and has had a great run as a writer. He began his career as a correspondent at International Socialism and moved on to various publications. Hitchens died of cancer in 2011. For those who aren’t familiar, here’s a quick piece about him.
George Bernard Shaw: All great truths begin as blasphemies
You probably know Bernard Shaw as the playwright, the author of Pygmalion, co- founder of London School of Economics and a Nobel laureate. But you’d be happy to know that he’s done some journalism in his life. Shaw was a ghost-writer for a bit and later became a critic of the arts for various publications.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Gabo
Those who’ve read only one of his books would remember Love in the time of Cholera or One hundred years of Solitude. Those who haven’t would remember him as Nobel Laureate.
“I’m a journalist. I’ve always been a journalist,” he told the AP at the time. “My books couldn’t have been written if I weren’t a journalist because all the material was taken from reality.” (source)
He is one of the pioneers of new journalism, or narrative non-fiction that I’m a big fan of. Here’s a quick one by The Hindu’s readers’ editor you should read.
Erik Arthur Blair a.k.a George Orwell
What Orwell wrote in his novel 1984 is perhaps more relevant now than ever. It is also his most popular work. Animal Farm is the other. Orwell wrote articles for papers like Tribune, The Observer and Manchester Evening News. I recently finished reading his book Down and Out in Paris and London, which narrates the days he spent with very little money and doing odd jobs. It was around that time he took on his first few assignments as a journalist. And here’s a fun fact: He was born in Bihar!
Another Nobel laureate here. There aren’t many who haven’t read Old Man & The Sea. Some of it was taught in schools while we were studying. He wrote for a local newspaper, fought the war, authored books, was a foreign correspondent, covered the war and has many more creds to his name. His biggest gift to writers was his style– minimalistic and clean. He called it the iceberg theory. That is, facts should float above the water and the supporting structure and symbolism must operate out of sight.
Tip: The Hemingway app is one of the tools to improve online writing. It helps you write in a crisp and clear manner.
Mark Twain: Samuel Langhorne Clemens
One of the greatest humorists of our times served time as a journalist writing for Virginia City newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise. Twain wrote mostly on travel before delivering Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn (the great American novel).
Image credits: Wikipedia