Friday, August 16, 2013

Let me explain...

The other day, veteran journalist Jack Germond died. Germond was one of those old-time reporters who had seen it all, knew everybody, and could crank out stories with the best of them. You might remember him as a liberal on such panel shows as "The McLaughlin Group."

When I saw the news on Facebook - welcome to the new world  of news-gathering - I thought of his book, "Fat Man in a Middle Seat." It was more than 300 pages of Germond looking back of his career, written more than 10 years ago.

But my Facebook comment, designed to be quick and easy, had nothing to do with that in recalling the book. It was connected to the fact that Germond sure seemed to have a lot of cocktails along the way. I believe he made a few reference to missing the days when he could sit down with politicians for "a few jars," meaning drinks.

Really, that's too short of a comment to make to be fair to a fine reporter. But it does deserve a little further explanation, and I'll do it here.

I've read a variety of memoirs from journalists over the years, and enjoyed almost all of them. But alcohol seemed to play a part in the job just as much as a typewriter and notepad did. Reporters would frequently get together with the people they covered for an off-the-record cocktail or three. Some of the stories in the books about what happened after the third cocktail are designed to be humorous.

But for in many cases - and I'm not specifically pointing at Germond by any means here - those stories merely came off as sad. We've much more aware since those days about the dangers of drunk driving, not to mention the damage that drinking to excess can do to families. Obviously, times sure have changed.

And looking back, I can tell you the exact moment when I reached "a tipping point" on the issue. When I worked for the Sabres in public relations at first (1986), the cooler in the press box always had cold, free beer in it. Most people who liked an adult beverage during the game didn't abuse the situation, but there were a few people who did.

Then at the summer meetings of the NHL, someone raised the issue. What would happen if someone who had consumed several free alcoholic beverages drove home and, God forbid, killed someone? Could the team be considered partly liable? I didn't want to find out. The following fall, beer was out of the cooler. I'm sure there were some complaints about that which I never heard directly, but I think most understood the situation.

I'm hardly saying that drinking by journalists doesn't take place. As long as there are road trips and deadlines and bars, alcohol will be consumed. But my unscientific guess is that we've become quite a bit more professional in this area over the years.

Reporters like Germond were simply from a different era, with different standards. I'm sure if he had come along 50 years later, he would have scooped everyone under the new rules.

Be notified of new posts via Twitter @WDX2BB.

No comments: