My lowest moments as a journalist

I’ve always been a big fan of self-deprecation. It’s a quality I love seeing in others, and one I try and foster within myself. Sometimes, people who are self-deprecating seem to be trying to hide something—embarrassment, discomfort, a character flaw. However, most have come across a truism that I am glad to have discovered in my older age: Truth sets one free.

Hence, I present my five lowest moments as a journalist (in reverse order):

5. In 1994, I was the cocky, mistake-prone editor of the University of Delaware student newspaper, The Review. There was a fraternity on campus known as Pika, and one of its members was being charged with rape. On a late deadline night I was typing in headlines, almost certainly with my eyes half closed and my mind dreaming of bed. Well, the paper comes out the next day, and my roommate is holding a copy. He says, “Is this headline right?” It was a quote from the Pika president reading “We still believe he is not innocent.” It was supposed to read, “We still believe he is innocent.” Ugh.

4. I was sent to San Francisco by Sports Illustrated to try and get Barry Bonds to speak to the magazine for the first time in years. It was a longshot, but I somehow got Barry to sit down and talk. Well, I’m up all night writing the damn story, and the next morning I anxiously take a call from my editor. I’ve poured my heart and soul and pen into this story, and what does he say, “Pearlman, if we wanted you to give Barry Bonds a blowjob, we woulda brought him to the streets of New York!!!!”

3. While serving as a music writer for The Tennessean in Nashville, I write a piece on how the local theatre is offering a summer concert series that is boring, lame and way too similar to the previous year’s venue. On the day it runs, the PR woman for the music venue, Starwood Ampitheatre, called The Tennessean and threatens to pull its advertising if we don’t run a follow-up. The next morning, we run a huge feature on Starwood’s inspiring lineup—and I’m demoted to the late-night cops beat.

2. I am hired by Newsday to roam New York City and write 3,000-word pieces on the vibe and essence and characters of the town. It is the best gig in the history of journalism. Within two years, they want 500-word snippets on Jessica Simpson’s hair.

1. I am 24-years old and working in The Tennessean‘s feature department. I have a friend, Sheila, who always leaves her computer on at night. One evening I’m working late and no one is around. Sheila’s computer is on, and I send a message from Sheila to Sheila that reads something like, “F— off.” I think this is uproarious. The next morning I arrive at the office and everything is very quiet. Turns out Sheila had something of a stalker, and they were trying to determine whether he had been after her. The reason? A threatening note on her computer. That confession was … the … absolute … worst … thing … ever.