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Facing the demons

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by dooley_womack1, May 23, 2010.

  1. dooley_womack1

    dooley_womack1 Well-Known Member

    Recently read biographies on Molly Ivins and Jessica Savitch. Ivins was an alcoholic, but it didn't stop here from becoming a beloved, influential columnist with a grueling work ethic. Savitch was one of the major forces behind women finding their niche in TV journalism, but was a massive drug user and a basket case who needed a support system to get through her day, let alone do her job.

    Ivins, of course, fell in with a party crowd in Austin, so it became part of her mystique and might have kept her from seriously wanting to quit, tho booze did ravage her body. And Savitch worked her ass off to try to become a solid journo (at least until the vicious cauldron of NBC News made her little more than an overpaid news reader), but cocaine use was apparently endemic to newsrooms in the disco 1970s, and she spent years being a co-dependent in an abusive relationship. By all accounts, the auto accident that drowned her (no drugs were found in her system, strangely) kept her from eventually dying of an overdose.

    These books made me curious as to whether y'all have worked with outsize, addictive personalities like this, whether they were able to function fine or whether they had very apparent ups and downs. And whether y'all worked in an environment that encouraged unhealthy bacchanal. As for me, I know a couple of people who drank their way out the biz, and one who drugged his way out.
  2. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    At a former paper, we had one reporter who was an alcoholic, had a couple of DUIs and issues with his wife. He eventually cleaned up his act and is now retired.

    At same paper, there was another reporter who was divorced, extremely overweight with major health issues. He was a workaholic who basically kicked ass on every story. Sadly, his health issues worsened and he died a few years back.
  3. flexmaster33

    flexmaster33 Active Member

    I think that is more a product of the 60s/70s than anything else...you could take an inside look at most industries during that time and find drug abuse and addiction.
  4. dooley_womack1

    dooley_womack1 Well-Known Member

    That's true. Back in the 70s, cocaine was thought to be as harmless as marijuana and a helluva aphrodisiac. Hundreds of thousands found out otherwise. Just as those gay or straight who had indiscriminate sex during the late '70s and early '80s and thought it'd be no-hangups fun. An AIDS epidemic later, not so much.
  5. cyclingwriter

    cyclingwriter Active Member

    Oh jeez,

    Where to start. I worked with a lot of people like this over the years. Guys showing up completely smashed in the newsroom or at events, guys arrested for Dui on the job, a person who sold office equipment to feed his drug habit, a Pulitzer winner who reguarly did nothing all day. I once asked an editor I trusted about all of the wierd people in our newsroom and he just shrugged. He told me stories of when he was at the Sac Bee in the 1970s of people smoking marijuana at their desks. He said out staff was relatively tame. I should note that most of the people who drank heavily were people who started their careers in the 1970s. The rest were fresh out of college talent who still thought they were in a frat part every day.
  6. I Should Coco

    I Should Coco Well-Known Member

    I think most of us have had a co-worker with similar demons. At my last shop, we had a woman, in her 50s, who relapsed back into an alcoholic lifestyle after her mother became ill and eventually died. Although she was still able to, more or less, function on the copy desk, there were times she would nod off, or forget what you told her earlier in the shift. And someone who was an absolute wordsmith began to let errors creep past on her pages.

    She's gotten a bit better since then, but it was tough for us to ignore, and tougher for us to mention it. Even her closest friends in the newsroom would get the "you're crazy" brush off when they would ask if she was all right. And for us younger folks, who hadn't worked with her for 20-plus years, I felt it wasn't our place to broach the subject.

    As I say, fortunately, the woman is doing better, but I always struggled with whether or not I should confront her about it. She was, in many ways, my mentor, before she resumed alcohol abuse, but I never did say anything to her, other than to ask about her mother's health. I've always thought I might have been wrong not to address the alcoholism; it was a tough situation.
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