Stunt Journalists Need New StuntsSo over the weekend Salon posted a dispatch from a guy named Avi Steinberg who got a job as a security guard at the Republican Convention. The main takeaway: RNC security guards had to wear tight pants. They are tighter than the skinny jeans worn by all the worthless bandannaed hipsters there to protest! They are so tight one delirious security guard warns him not to "spring a woody" because "Governor Palin is hot, dude." That is not all that happens — a lot of people get drunk and chant "Rudy" just for kicks — but it is generally all that happens, which brings us to a point about this dying genre of "immersion journalism." It is a big pain in the ass to get a whole job doing something just for a story, and it can be an equally big disappointment if you don't even get to Tase anyone. And yet, where else in the convention coverage will you find this sort of paragraph, a fun (and probably bullshit) taxonomy of the various species of Republican drunks:
I'm developing a purely anecdotal theory about Republican drunkenness: that it's related to ideology. The less ideological arrive back at the headquarters earlier in the evening, between midnight and 1 a.m. These are, in chronological order, the Romney and the Giuliani supporters. Both are East Coast, urban college grad, corporate types. They like to drink and reminisce about the Harvard-Yale game, but they also like to wake up early, shave and not smell like booze at committee meetings. The Giuliani people are secular and more openly lecherous. So they tend to drink a bit harder and stay out closer to 1 a.m. The Ron Paul people party past 1 a.m., but not much. And they shave but they don't showboat. The ones who stay out the latest and come back the drunkest, I notice, are the Huckabee folks, the party's rural conservatives. They believe in Jesus, in the hard-bitten way of the true alcoholic. If they ever sober up, it'll be by the grace of the Lord; and if they intend to stay on the sauce and continue living, then they'll really need His loving kindness. If you intend to be drinking heavily until closing time — 4 a.m. in the Twin Cities during the RNC — you had better walk home with Jesus. I can't place true McCainites on the alcohol-ideology matrix. I think they were all asleep by 9:30 p.m.
Now, sure, this passage is so cliche-rife and unsubstantiated Curtis Sittenfeld might have written it over an oolong latte at Teany, but the fact remains that it was one of the few produced by last week's Convention coverage that really bothers to draw distinctions among the Republican convention goers at all. The guy didn't need to go through paramilitary training or whatever to make these observations, but generally that's the type of stunt it takes for freelancers to get assignments writing anything interesting anymore, and getting dumb jobs is a good way to remind journalists how disconnected the other journalists they normally drink with are from the drinking public. The thing is, there are all sorts of rules and forms and time constraints in immersion journalism, and the writers willing to sacrifice the time and the "objectivity" to immerse themselves in that sort of persona are usually young, naive and apt to find boring, cliched observations actually interesting. But until more news organizations take a cue from Tyra and start sending their more experienced commentators out into the field in capacities where they are not recognized as representatives of the media elite, "Confessions of an RNC Security Guard" may be the best we got. Related: From 2004 Hot Girls, Frisky Delegates: Diary of a strip club waitress [Village Voice] Submersion Journalism: Reporting in the Radical First Person