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?