Filters: We Could Use ‘Em

PJ O’Rourke stands out as one of the most articulate writers on the scene. Here is an interview with him from PR Week, about reporting and the public view of reporters.

O’Rourke: If you would have told me 30 years ago that journalism could get worse, I would have called you a liar. But it looks like it’s headed that way. As bad as daily journalism can be, and TV journalism, all the kinds of journalism– and they can be pretty bad– [they’re] not nearly as bad as Arianna Huffington’s blog. Even the worst kinds of journalism, like the National Enquirer, it always has to go through a number of hands before it arrives at the public. It has to go through a number of filtering processes.

Now, there’s nothing necessarily noble about those filtering processes, but just the fact that they exist does something. For one thing, it slows you down. It gives you time enough to think “Wait, wait, stop the presses, I don’t want to say that.” We had an underground newspaper in Baltimore right after I got out of graduate school, and we had to drive up to Philadelphia just to get it printed.

I mean, talk about filtering processes. The printing plants in Baltimore would not print it. And this was a printing plant in the slums of Philadelphia that did grocery store inserts, nothing noble. This was not some art house. But every now and then, the old guy who owned it would call us in and say “Wait a minute, what’s this thing here about making Molotov cocktails? If my union guys down on the press see this, they’re gonna blow their top.”

I’m sure that this prevented some noble thoughts and some brilliant art and quite a lot of porn from getting out to the public, but it also prevented a lot of stupid stuff from happening. So you take the filtering away and what you get is unfiltered. Try it with coffee.