And the biggest drunk in journalism is…

29 March 2007

Like it or lump it, the most hilarious stories in journalism with a capital J are built around alcohol. Pete Hamill, the legendary New York columnist, in fact called his memoirs A Drinking Life with remarkable candour.

“The culture of drink endures because it offers so many rewards: confidence for the shy, clarity for the uncertain, solace to the wounded and lonely, and above all, the elusive promises of friendship and love.”

Maybe there is a bit of dangerous romanticisation there but the reading public generally assumes that all journos are alcoholics, and we do little to wipe off that impression.

Just why journos drink so much—many of them on the job, in the parking lot, in the loo—we know not. Nirad Mudur says it’s probably because we keep long hours and can’t have the social life other human beings are entitled to.

Maybe. At The Sunday Observer in Bombay long years ago, Rahul Goswami had a little placard on his dashboard: “Reality is an illusion caused by alcohol deficiency.”

And in any newspaper office, in any press club, in any city, in any country, all the best rib-tickling tales are of the drunk. There is, for instance, the classic maybe apocryphal case of Gunda Bhat, the Samyukta Karnataka reporter who was sent to cover the Bangalore karaga procession.

Come deadline and neither Mr Bhat nor his copy were to be seen. A desperate desk manages to whip up some copy using other “sources”. Mr Bhat saunters in the next morning and hands in the copy. What happened?

“The procession just passed by, that’s why,” he says, matter-of-factly. And he wasn’t wrong.

Mr Bhat, a crime reporter much loved by Bangalore’s cops, had met a policeman on duty moments after taking up his position. One thing leads to another, and the two go for a drink. Result: Mr Bhat only manages to catch the procession on its way back the next morning!

As if in salute to the drunks of the media world, Gawker is trying to spot New York’s drunkest journalists to award the “Steve Dunleavy Liver Memorial Award For Drinking In The Line Of Duty.” The honour is named after a hard-drinking Australian tabloid journalist and a legendary boozer.

Talking of Australians, here’s a fine YouTube video of a drunk Aussie journalist on an awards night.

Also read: Who were Fleet Street’s legendary drunks?

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3 Responses to “And the biggest drunk in journalism is…”

  1. teetotaller Says:

    Journos cannot be imagined without a drink. I think, we get the real stories when a journo is drunk. If all the reporters set to publish say 10 stories in office, their real talent of publishing 100 stories can be seen only when they are made to drink.

  2. Ramesh Says:

    I got lot info from fellow jounos when they wre drunk. In my initial days as a reporter I make it a point to attend parties ….some it is to confirm some rumours…!

  3. Rahul Goswami Says:

    Ah yes, I remember that, sort of, in an abashedly foggy way. Indeed those were the days. There was a sub-tribe of deadbeats at the Bombay Press Club and around the time the last orders for booze were being taken they’d sidle up, manage to look ingratiating and intimidating at the same time, and mooch some hooch. We called them ‘freedom fighters’, for they resolutely fought for free booze. You could spin this sort of woolgathering out into a section all by itself and never run out of material!


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