Sunday, July 22, 2012

Know what I miss?

reporter's or reporters'? they're both correct, depending on context, dingus.
Reporters' notebooks.

I'm talking about these jammies. The ones I used, though, were not so crass as to announce themselves on the cover; they had the same basic, glossy cover as your average Spiral notebook, the kind you buy in a pack before each new semester of college. But the shape. 4x8 inches, tall and slim, gave me more go-get-'em-Scoops courage than ten press passes.

They honestly never made much sense. I am assuming they were originally created in that shape to fit into the breast pocket (some might call it a flask pocket) of a blazer, and they don't even put those pockets in womens' blazers. (Plus: who wears women's blazers?!) I'd been carrying notebooks for years before I was a reporter, in the service of being a standup comic, and for that I just carried a tiny notepad. Granted, I was writing fewer words that wouldn't have to be transcribed or fact-checked, but still: I knew, as I strode into Staples and picked up a megapack of these guys, that this wasn't a practical act. I had like 900 Steno pads stolen from temp jobs (the ones with the mint green paper and the little red line down the middle? Swoon).

(yeah, I may have a little office-supply problem. Yeah, I might.)

 Anyway. The point is, these were as much a part of my emotional preparation, going into a reporting situation (a Russian bath in Brooklyn, a boat to Ellis island packed with Jewish celebrities, the release of a G.I. Joe based on the standing Secretary of State), as pair of comfortable shoes, a cup of coffee, and a set of ready questions so I wouldn't be tongue-tied.

Yet it was surprising to me when people saw the notebook and said "Oh, here's the reporter." I can't tell you when I realized reporters had their own style of pad; I didn't think of it as a general cultural signifier. I was in a relationship with my notebook, it wasn't for the world to see. Except it was; people recognizing it gave me an additional charge, a jolt of self-confidence.

I see now there are moleskine reporters' notebooks. What. The fudge. No WAY would I carry one of those! Ah, but I don't carry the real thing anymore, either. The most important interviews, I capture on a digital recorder. When I take notes, I grab whatever half-empty notebook is handy, most often one that was given out free at a press event (read: cocktail party my friends and I took as an excuse to meet up). Or I do my interviews over the phone, so I can type my notes in garbled, but more accurate and harder to lose, format.

Maybe I've gone soft. Or I've moved on to a different kind of reporting. Or both! But the sight of these little soldiers makes me feel all gooey inside. They bring to my memory the urgency of hurrying through an unfamiliar neighborhood, peering at building numbers, trying to soak up local color while staying focused on the story at hand. Jotting down possible other stories (what's that cool blue house? There's a puppet theater -- here?!) on the way.

I'm not even tempted to buy a set - I don't want to dilute those memories.


Lisa said...

I used to use these at my last job, in Rapid. I'd make phone notes on them so I wouldn't forget who called and who I needed to call back. Kind of like todo lists, but specifically for phone calls. They are the perfect size. I'd use them now by my computer, if I still had some.

Jesse said...

YES. And my beat reporter gig was in a town called Portage, making the notebook feel built, specifically, for moi.