My philosophy of journalism is: I write, therefore I buy

July 28, 2002|By Susan Reimer

When I talk to young people interested in careers in journalism, I am brutally frank.

"Newspapers are like land," I tell them, "because God isn't making more of either one."

The other thing I tell them is that while you can seek your fortune in journalism, you aren't likely to make one there. Journalists aren't in it for the money, and it is a good thing.

What I have not mentioned to these young people is how expensive my work can be. I spend so much of my paycheck on the job that I feel like a teen-ager working at The Gap.

Here is a partial accounting:

I did a gardening story on daylilies, and it featured Cherokee Gardens, owned by Marie Skelley and Jerry Betzler of Westminster, who often sell plants to daylily fans who tour their sprawling and meticulously groomed yard.

After the story appeared, I returned to Carroll County and bought 30 daylilies from Marie and Jerry. Then I paid a landscaper to open up two new daylily beds in my yard.

I wrote a story about Susan Iglehart of Glyndon, who has turned her obsession with planting every seed in a flower packet into a cottage industry, germinating thousands of annuals and selling the seedlings to a customer list that is expanding exponentially.

After the story appeared, I put in my order for three flats of annuals.

Then I wrote about Robin Papadopoulos, an Annapolis craftswoman who turned her passion for exotic travel into beautiful beaded jewelry.

After the story appeared, I returned to Robin's little cabin workshop and bought beaded watches and bracelets for me, my sisters, and girlfriends, my daughter and her friends and everyone on my Christmas list.

Soon after, I wrote a column about celebrity make-up artist Karim Orange and the sensible advice she gives women like me.

After the story appeared, I called Karim and purchased brushes, concealer, eye shadow . . . . Well, you get the idea.

As you may have noticed, I am careful to say that I made these purchases "after the story appeared."

Journalists are rightfully proud of the fact that we do not pay for news, and I am careful not to violate that sacred principle. Nobody gets a dime out of me until the story hits the news stands.

Then, of course, the checks fly.

I have written about container gardens and then spent a small fortune at the local nursery. I have written about backyard wildlife sanctuaries, and gone out and spent another small fortune on birdhouses, bird feeders, birdbaths and birdseed.

I have written about Natalie Angier's book, Woman: An Intimate Geography, and Cheryl Mendelson's Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House. Both are reference books every woman should have in her library, and because of me, a number of my women friends do.

I feel like the print version of the Home Shopping Channel.

This confession will no doubt bring down on me the unwanted attention of my supervisors, who will think twice about my impartiality, another canon of journalism. How can I be impartial about a subject if I can't wait to buy 10 of them?

My husband, from whom I have hidden many of these purchases, could not help but notice all those brightly colored beaded watches from Robin and said without rancor, "Do you ever write about people who aren't selling stuff?"

I huffed and told him he ought to be glad I am not a real estate writer.

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