Stuff Journalists Like – #40 The Grumpy Old Reporter

He’s been through three publishers, four editors and a revolving door of journalists. He was there on your first day and he’ll be
there on your last.

He types with two fingers. He wears the same tattered jacket from some festival that took place before most people in the newsroom were born.

He shuns technology. When he talks about lead, he’s not talking about a journalist’s first graph. He still remembers typesetting. Hell, he still uses a rolodex. While journalists born after the Carter administration click away on their Blackberries and iPhones, the entire newsroom can hear the screeching noise coming from the grumpy old reporter’s cassette tape recorder as he plays back an interview. Most journalists have never even owned a cassette tape before. The grumpy old reporter still refers blackberries as a fruit and couldn’t use an iPhone if his life depended on it.

He’s set in his ways.

If he’s not bitching when the bosses are making changes, he’s bitching because they never fix anything. To him, the best days of the newspaper have passed. He smokes his cigarettes two feet from the entrance while complaining about having to smoke outside. All journalists like to bitch, but frankly, no one bitches more, or better, than him.

While he takes every story assignment begrudgingly, he’s usually the first to volunteer to cover a last-minute sanitation meeting.

In a newsroom full of sarcastic pessimists, he’s the most sarcastic and the most pessimistic. He can and often cracks jokes about fatal crashes, schoolchildren and babies. People wonder how he’s managed to stay married to the same woman for 30 years – wait, when was the last time anyone saw the wife?

While cub reporters mock the grumpy old reporter for actually pulling out a phonebook to look up an address or name or thumb through a physical, real-life dictionary for a definition, he’s the one they run to when they need background on a story, a source to quote or find out where to get drunk at 9:30 a.m. on a Sunday.

He’ll call a journalist out on his or her bullshit, lazy reporting, typos and errors. And he’s what every good journalist needs. Secretly, all journalists hope they can stay in the industry long enough to become one themselves.


the grumpy


  1. cia says:

    I think I’m this guy… and I’m only 30. But my Rolodex is six inches from my keyboard right now.

  2. Leah says:

    You forgot that he also keeps a flagon of rum or gin in his desk and sneaks swigs when he thinks no-one is watching.

  3. Old School says:

    Many, many years ago, back in the Reagan Administration (the first one, that is) I was a cub reporter and one of these guys took me under his wing. He could always be relied on for criticism of your work, but done tactfully, never cutting. I remember his gripe sessions vividly, his ever-glowing cigarette, the way he wore a white shirt and skinny black tie to work every day, and the bottle of Jim Beam he kept in the second drawer of his desk.
    Now, I’ve become him, sans skinny black tie, that is, and my smoking has to be done outside. I’ve got my rolodex nearby, my handy phonebook and dictionary, and am wishing for a battered fedora!

  4. Jenn says:

    This could be an epitaph for a reporter I worked with for 8 years. He had a history of heart trouble, so he didn’t drink or smoke. His thing was comparing prices at the grocery stores for the frozen TV dinners, and he always came back after a visit across the state lines letting us know what prices their grocery items were, or how much gas was at the towns he went through. Sometimes we were allies, but when he died we were on the outs. Wish this had been written two years earlier, because he would’ve loved it. Thanks, it helped this “grumpy old reporter” heal a little bit.

  5. Jenn says:

    I still have mine too, at the ripe old age of 35. It was inherited from the grumpy old reporter I just posted about on here.

  6. Brian Mitchell says:


  7. NancyNack says:

    we have a few of these … but without the part at the end about them being valuable and giving a crap.

  8. Heather Tyler says:

    So funny, and so true! They are so surly and grumpy and old-fashioned but they often have a contact book you would kill for….


  1. [...] amusing as it may be to see the old, curmudgeonly reporter mock and make wisecracks at others’ expenses, I really hope I don’t turn into [...]

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