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Farewell to a Fishbowl

“So…who are these people that you write about, just other people who write about other people?”

It was a fair question, posed by a friend of mine. It’s been hard to explain to civilians, as it were, why exactly this job has been so all-encompassing for the last ten months. How can I explain to them how funny TimesSelect jokes are? Why Katie Couric‘s legs are a symbol of the seismic shift in the world as we know it? Why referring to Jack Shafer as “Our Dark Lord” cracks me up, even now as I’m typing?

I haven’t been able to in ten months, which is why my best friend has no clue who Maureen Dowd is (though I can tell you that she considers men very, very necessary) and a recent boy I dated didn’t know the difference between Anderson Cooper and Stephen Colbert…when they were both on the TV screen at the same time. (I swear to God that one’s true.) I’ve candidly admitted in the past that I knew very little coming in; now, thanks to a 24-hour diet of news and spin, I can at least hold my own in an email exchange with Jay Rosen (but not a long one).

It’s kind of goofy (but if you are a regular Fishbowl reader you expect no less), but I now have a genuine affection for this beat and for those it covers (even the ones I’ve never met. I’m lookin’ at you, Howie Kurtz, oy what a punum). I had a mini-epiphany last night about why, and it goes back to the notion of being a mensch. I do actually believe that most of us genuinely are in this to add something to the equation and effect a little good. That’s one of the reason the outrage over James Frey is so heartening — it’s kind of amazing that such a cynical bunch of bastards can be so offended that someone lied.

As it turns out, it’s kind of a prerequisite for being one of those people who people like me who write about other people who write about other people write about (yes, we’re the luckiest people in the world). If you didn’t get that well, be grateful that I’m returning to the world in which I am actually edited. In the meantime, before this gets too maudlin, I just wanted to thank all of you for being a mensch (there, Brian Williams, a Golden Girls shout-out just for you!). For the FishFriends&#153 amongst you — you know who you are, all of youse — I thank you so much for every bit of fact-checking, tip-dropping and media-whoring (just kidding, Bucky!). It has been so much fun to do this with all of you, and I can’t even believe you let me for so long.

Or that you read this ridiculously long post. What, you don’t have work to do? Look forward to prose far more elegant and precise come tomorrow when MB stalwart Greg Lindsay steps into the fray, with support from MB’s own Dorian Benkoil and Aileen Gallagher. In the meantime, “The Fishbowl Final” will resume tomorrow, and I’m excited for that. But otherwise, this is so long, and farewell, and auf wiedersehn. You know the drill.

Thanks so much for this wonderful, amazing, inspiring experience. Sorry for being sentimental, I’m Canadian. So, by the way, are Bonnie Fuller, Sheelah Kolhatkar, Graydon Carter, Samantha Bee, Pat Kiernan and Malcolm Gladwell.

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