Stuff Journalists Like – #10 Drinking

Drinking For
a journalist, there are a few things to look forward to. There’s the end of an
election. The closing of a trial and of course when the town’s annual
rodeo/festival/art show is finally over. But after a long day of grilling
elected officials, dredging through public records, chasing ambulances and
writing 25-inch stories, journalists always have one thing to look forward to -
relaxing with a tall cold one.

old stereotype of the curmudgeon journalist with a bottle of whiskey in his
desk is alive and well today because journalists like to drink.

natural disasters, covering triple homicides and reporting on fatal accidents,
journalists see some pretty horrific stuff. And since journalist pay ranks
around that of a trained circus monkey, they can’t afford any psychological
help. However, they can afford a $15 bottle of Fighting Cock bourbon.

takes the edge off after a day of reporting on the scene of drug bust, shifting
through six years of financial papers at city hall and stressing over deadlines
like a nice shot of low-shelf whiskey or a pint.

and journalists just out of school have all heard the stories of the days when
journalists kept flasks in their back pockets and handles of Jim Bean in their
filing cabinets. But today, newspapers and their corporate owners shun such
habits. But go to any veteran journalist and he’ll show you were he keeps his

if journalists don’t like to drink because of having to interview a widow who
just lost her husband in Iraq, then there is always job security. As one
journalist after another exits the newsroom with their severance check in hand,
journalists flee to their safe haven – dive bars.

is done best by journalists in shoddy bars and questionable establishments. The
kind of places where a journalist might run into the same perps he writes about
on his beat. 

And while journalists can never really ever take off their journalist hats,
while drinking, there is an unspoken ceasefire among journalists. Rival
journalists, who otherwise would not share more than a glance with each other
at a press conference, share stories about griping editors and mayors who like
to call journalists sweetie or honey. Editors and journalists, who in a
newsroom walk a very palpable line of rank, talk about the cute receptionist
and how the publisher is a moron. But after shots have been taken and tabs have
been paid, journalists go back trying to scoop the competition and avoiding
social interaction with editors.  

can tell a journalist’s bar by names such as Trail Dust, Cell House 7 and Top
Hat Lounge. Such dingy hole in the wall watering holes will typically have two
beers on tap, PBR and Budweiser, and a well of cheap liquor.

journalists gather to complain about the death of their industry and how much
they miss the good ol’ days. Most of the time such bars are a stone’s throw
from the newsroom so weary journalists won’t have to stumble too far to wet
their dry palates.

good beer and a shot is just the medicine for any spent journalist who survived
another treacherous day in the trenches reporting the truth. To report the
news is to be a journalist. Same goes for drinking. Drinking is so much a part
of a journalist’s life that J-schools nearly made it part of the curriculum but
instead choose copy editing. And journalism has suffered ever



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  1. I can attest to this one, I used to drink at the Jingling Geordie on Fleshmarket Close in Edinburgh, right behind the beautiful old Scotsman newspaper HQ which is now, sadly, a hotel. To be fair it was mostly the sports journos I met in there but every damn one of them knew how to put away a pint. It fair tempted me to take a journalism course, there’s something romantic about the image of discussing the latest insider news in a smokey, dingy pub over a few pints and whiskeys…

  2. Karyudo says:

    Yup: a journalist wrote this. You can tell by the misuse of “pallets”. Something that a good copy editor would know should be “palates” — but copy editors appear to be pretty few and far between these days.

  3. Also it’s “shoddy” bars, not “shotty” bars.

  4. Ricky says:

    Perhaps it was written by a reporter while drinking. I don’t quite relate to this one right now, but while working for my college newspaper I would definitely go to the nearest bar after work – Hole in the Wall.

    • Cheryl says:

      Yes, perhaps written while drinking. But I am reminded of something my son ( a grad student in journalism) mentioned to me , a quote supposedly by Hemingway, to whit “write while drinking, edit while sober”. Perhaps the writer of this article missed that, tho’ all seems to have been corrected when I read it.

  5. badger says:

    This made me laugh so hard, because our bar is right across the street. In fact we can see the neon from our front door!

  6. newshound62 says:

    Who neads coppy editers, anyways.

  7. Karen says:

    Not a journalist, but I do share your love of shoddy bars. It is my dream to one day go on a dive bar tour of the world. Great post!

  8. Lindsay says:

    One day during finals week in journalism school. My 11 AM final involved a straight trip to the nearest Italian restaurant and spending the next 4 hours drinking red table wine. Later that same day, in another unrelated journalism class, that final took place at the nearest dive bar.
    I miss journalism school, for sure.

  9. Editard says:

    As my copy editing professor once said as he saw us shuffling in from the college paper for shots on election night, “if you can’t edit drunk, don’t edit.”
    And that’s where reporters come from. Copy editors are journalists, too.

  10. What the hell’s Jim Bean??

  11. Tima says:

    My first internship was at the Kyiv Post in Ukraine. I worked there for a few months right before the Orange Revolution. My editors cussed a blue streak, drank like fish and stayed out until it was time to put out the next edition. I stumbled home after sunrise more than once. We hung out at the Baraban, a bar full of political insiders, and we chased oligarchs around the city just for fun, knowing we couldn’t touch them with print. Imagine my surprise when I graduated from college and went to work at a large metro on the West Coast. I found a memo in my cubicle the second day discussing the newsroom policy about not swearing. And when I asked if anyone wanted to get a drink after work, they said they had to go to yoga class or they were too tired. I’m now at a medium-size paper where the editor can hold her own in a cursing match and where the young reporters work as hard as they play as hard as they drink and the old reporters don’t drink anymore because they learned the hard way, but they would never tell you that. It’s good to find balance.

  12. teddy b says:

    Writing really, really long posts that people don’t want to read.

  13. Laura says:

    Teddy Baz, I see your “Writing really, really long posts” and raise you a “Saying they don’t need copy editors.”

  14. randerson says:

    “Nothing takes the edge off … like a nice shot of low-shelf whiskey or a pint.”
    Or a nice pint of low-shelf whiskey.

  15. I have drink in hand as I read this – filed two features today, one extra long (over 2000 words). Great post!

  16. says:

    The Top Hat lounge….only in Loveland, CO. Yeah, David, great post!

  17. Trinny says:

    Yeah, I was very disappointed in my journ graduate course to find I was one of the few drinkers, and the lone smoker… Colleagues since then have made up for it though!

  18. Julie B. says:

    I, too, lolled at “dry pallets.”
    /copy editor

  19. al!son says:

    *Jim Beam. -15 points for accuracy.

  20. Dan Kubiske says:

    Your piece — and one from Slate — helped me explain to people why Dec. 5 is marked as an important day on the calendar for the Washington, DC chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. (

  21. John says:

    Or the writer could also be referring to the usual stream of shots he/she partakes in the bar.

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