This week’s note is a lightly revised submission from five years ago. If you feel gipped by getting an old column this week, we do have a money-back guarantee.
You can come in to see me in my office on the 32nd day of any given month for a complete refund, no questions asked.
Anyway, here’s this week’s drivel from five years ago.
I have to confess I’m not the newspaperman that I want to be, which is evidenced by the fact that I don’t drink enough. A real newspaperman is defined by both the poison he pens and the poison he consumes. A true, old-fashioned scribe of the people drinks bourbon.
I know a lot of Scotch drinkers, but they’re hacks. Scotch is for lawyers and congressmen and other ne’er-do-wells. Beer is the reporter’s choice, and free beer is even better. If you see a reporter sipping Scotch, you can tell two things. 1) somebody else bought it, and 2) he has higher aspirations. Either way, he’s probably on the take and is not to be trusted.
Bourbon is a working-class beverage. Sour mash is a suitable substitute. Scotch is too refined. Scotch and wine drinkers talk about the palate, the nose and the finish. They use words like crisp, complex and earthy. Bourbon drinkers use words that can’t be printed in the newspaper.
All the great newspapermen of yesteryear were heavy drinkers. Sedating their sources was an effective way of learning the stories that really needed to be told.
The late Pat Seil, himself a fourth-generation newspaperman from Grayville, would tell how his grandfather instructed him: Where there’s booze, there’s news. And where there’s ink, there’s drink.
I don’t say this to glorify drinking alcohol. I barely partake, myself. I have been known, however, to keep a bottle of bourbon in my desk drawer for the occasional mayor, minister or monkey who might wander in and need their jaws oiled to help them say what was on their minds.
Someone once asked me if I was a social drinker, and I replied honestly that all my drinking is work-related.
Today, workplace drinking is largely discouraged and often outlawed. Not surprisingly, the decay of journalistic integrity and the decline of newsroom imbibing share a similar graphical path.
There is still one vice that many of my editorial brothers still share, though, and that’s the love of a fine cigar. From Anna to Pinckneyville to Chicago’s Suburban Publishers Association, cigars are still the embodiment of a true newsman. They are such a standard among editors that further attempts to tax them into oblivion should be considered a threat to the First Amendment.
When I bought my first newspaper, the former publisher and I celebrated with cigars. It was a rite of passage forged through generations of journalistic excellence.
I’m sure there are one or two fine newsmen out there who neither drink nor smoke. I can only imagine what horrific secrets they hide, for Abraham Lincoln even noted: “It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.”
© Copyright 2019 by David Porter, who can be reached at email@example.com. And as Dean Martin once said, “I don’t drink anymore. I don’t drink any less, but I don’t drink any more.”