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.