Thursday, July 31, 2014


Murrow is the Father but Hunter is the Holy Spirit. Beats me who the Son is — maybe Hemingway or Capote or Kesey or Woodward or Wolfe, depending on the day and the drugs. No matter: the Son is basically a passing fancy in the Trinity of Real Journalism. He may be a god but he's too human, and eventually we become disenchanted with his powers and are forced to kill him.

The Father, Murrow, is still the one invoked by scribes in the churches they call "newsrooms." His name is on a big award for broadcasters and is tattooed on the right ass cheeks of some old-school reporters (there is a rumor, widely whispered but never confirmed, that Bob Schieffer also sports a delicately scripted tattoo of Murrow's real first name — Egbert — around his left nipple).

Murrow is the god of clean shirts and muted ties and even tones. He isn't flashy and this is good because His words are clear: we should "describe things in terms that make sense to the truck driver without insulting the intelligence of the professor." Amen.

Hunter, the Holy Spirit, insults the trucker and the professor with equal vigor. Instead of cold precision He uses hot glossolalia to stun and sway the masses.

He is the god of sweaty tent revivals and ferocious fucking. Spirits moved and clothes removed. His name is whispered by members of journalism's secret societies, but only during the legendary initiation gauntlet, and only on the seventh passing of the ceremonial ram horn crack pipe, as the initiate exhales. The resulting sound is both beautiful and terrifying. One journalist I knew was struck deaf and blind by it; he eventually ripped out his tongue to achieve what he called the full Helen Keller effect. At least I think that's what he was saying — he was hard to understand, what with the deafness and all.

The Hunter god appears in cryptic dreams and hallucinations. The Murrow god is always wide awake and smokes a fuckton of cigarettes but He has never smoked crank from a hollowed-out light bulb. Doing so would be awesome but it might unleash the spirits and devastate His buttoned-down mind, and it's that mind we need when we're in character as Big-J journalists working in a constitutionally-guaranteed business. Murrow is the god I invoke when I'm making sure facts are right and words aren't misspelled.

But when I'm in the control room and the newscast plane is veering out of control, it's Hunter the Holy Spirit who pushes forward and inspires me to try anything that might keep the plane out of a death spiral. We will go right to the edge sometimes, but that's because adrenaline is a hell of a drug — 50,000 feet high in an instant, and once you've ridden that rail and felt the Gs pull back your ears, every other adventure seems boring.

Hunter the Holy Spirit is the god of cleverness, the god of imagination, the god of badassery. He is the one who commands me to come to the edges and compels me to think, to experiment, to detonate.

Most people flash me the sideways stink eye for being Out There, for being one of His apostles. I wear the weirdness with pride. I own it. I accept the vivid dreams and hallucinations as penance for falling short of His glory and I work harder to understand the terrible swift sword so one day I can wield it against the demons.

When I hit my knees in prayer it is Murrow's name I invoke, word world without end, amen. But when the bugs scream at night and I kneel before the godhead I am thinking of Hunter and speaking in tongues.

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