Back in the ‘90s, when I was a cub reporter for the Chicago Tribune, I had the privilege of being hazed by my very first editor, Jim Gallagher. Gallagher was your serious Old School metro desk editor: Irish-American, New Yorker, chain smoker, a man possessing an exceedingly big voice and an exceedingly short fuse. “Wiltz!” he’d scream at me, jabbing a nicotine-stained finger in my face, “You better go write that story faster than you’ve ever written anything in your life. And it better be good!”
We’re talking fear, major fear. Fear that I’d get fired, fear that I would get something wrong and —heaven forbid— need a correction. And I would indeed type faster than I’d ever typed in my life. If Gallagher told me that what I’d written was good, I knew that it was true. Because if I’d written a piece of crap, he would tell me. In excruciating detail.
I say all this to say, that if Gallagher (now dearly departed, alas), had been editing Walter Dawkins’ Daily News piece about rapper Roxanne Shante’s Ph.D., it never would’ve made it into the paper, getting linked all over the world wide web. (Including, it must be said, on The Root.) Because Gallagher would’ve said something like this: “Dawkins! How do you know this sh** is true? Did you bother to call the f—ing school?” (Apparently not.)
Ben Sheffner, over at our sister site, Slate, did bother to call the school. Proving that even in this era of blogging and digital domination, that old journalism maxim still rings true: If your mama says she loves you, check it out. (And if Roxanne Shante says that she has a PhD, call Cornell.)