The Morning File: An open letter to Clark Kent, disaffected newspaper reporter

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Print Email Read Later reported the following last week: "Add Superman to the list of reporters leaving the newspaper business behind. In the comic book series' latest issue, which went on sale Wednesday, an outraged Clark Kent quits his job at The Daily Planet after his boss berates him."

It leads The Morning File to send the following letter to Mr. Kent:

Dear Clark:

As a fellow scribe who has admired your work over the years, especially that six-part investigative series showing Superman to be a better crime-fighter than Batman, I wish you would reconsider your decision. Journalism desperately needs to retain all the mild-mannered, good-spelling reporters it has, especially when they can type as fast as you do.

Believe me, I understand your resentment of Perry White and the top layers of management at the Planet. I have often been similarly berated at my own newspaper. I was rebuked just months ago for using the office copier to print out my resume for a job I was seeking as an NFL replacement referee. (Didn't get hired, as a result, because my boss gave me a lousy reference when the league called.)

Maybe it's different where you come from, but when things don't go the way we want at normal Earth workplaces, we suck it up, bow obsequiously to our employer and forget our grievances in order to keep earning a paycheck -- and to use the computers, telephones, stationery and other office supplies for personal purposes.

That's why I was astonished by your outburst in resigning, when you railed about the modern state of newspapers, complaining, "Facts have been replaced by opinions. Information has been replaced by entertainment. Reporters have become stenographers. I can't be the only one who's sick of what passes for the news today."

That's a great Jerry Maguire moment for you, as USA Today noted, but it also tells me you must not read the Post-Gazette's Munch column informing you where to get cheap eats. And what about the death notices we keep running 24/7 just as we always have -- only more than ever, it seems -- without a shred of entertainment?

I read that maybe you're going to go into blogging now, as so many journalists do. That's all fine and good, allowing you to sit at home all day in front of the computer in your superhero costume instead of dressing like a real person, but what are you going to do for health insurance? Do you have any idea what a hospital bill for an overnight stay for kryptonite exposure costs? (Plenty, believe me, if my own stay for overexposure to political commercials is any indication.)

And what's with not waiting around for the newspaper to offer you a buyout, which is the way all good journalists get out of the business these days, instead of jumping off a cliff? (Yes, literally you can fly, we know, but you're behaving like an impetuous child who doesn't consider the consequences of his actions.)

Your actions wouldn't trouble me so much if I hadn't grown up holding you in such high regard, wishing I could be you: lifting cars off my loved ones, preventing trains from derailing, soaring past skyscrapers where I could voyeuristically peer in windows to see what unsuspecting people are up to.

When you went into journalism, it was only natural that I would do likewise to emulate you, while also trying to act as nebbish and klutzy as possible in order to fool people instead of showing my true strengths.

Many's the time I've been interviewing someone who said at the session's conclusion, "Wow, that was just like being with Clark Kent." And I said, "Thanks, you mean Superman?" And they said, "No, like Clark Kent, only with less presence and confidence." And I would try to hurl myself through a door to rush away quickly, only to end up dazed on the floor.

I can't help but think your actions have something to do with your recent breakup with Lois Lane. As you've been around since 1940, it's natural you would be doing a lot of soul-searching at this stage of life, though why you're not spending all your time golfing in some Arizona retirement community is beyond me, as I'm sure you could break par most days.

But if you'd like to come work at the Post-Gazette, considering the occasional turnover here, I'd be happy to put in a good word for you. It would probably boost circulation, which is always nice in this day and age. And the editors actually are a lot nicer than Perry White -- just don't leave a batch of resumes lying around on the copier.


Gary Rotstein: or 412-263-1255.


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