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Dear John: Why am I still a journalist?

Published 11:27pm Thursday, August 23, 2012

Can you tell me why I’m still a journalist? Or why I became one in the first place?
— Melissa Wiese, Sacramento, Calif.

It was good to have lunch with you Aug. 20 while you were home in Niles.

And thanks for the Facebook photo, which made me feel like Huck Finn eavesdropping at his funeral.

See, that’s one reason. You’re good at it. Every now and then in the morgue I run across one of your old columns and ruminate.

Sixteen paused to gawk, and what an amazing flash mob of my life — my wife, my college girlfriend, my boss, former colleagues, my Miss Dowagiac, public officials I’ve covered, the Heather Thomas I don’t share a birthday with, even the daughter of the doctor who delivered me.

You always treat me like a mentor you learned from, but I don’t remember teaching you anything. Maybe it’s the other way around.

You’re a quick study with a restless, agile mind. No surprise you’re Web editor at a business journal. You and Jim Sergent, to USA Today, launched yourselves from the V&A.

Ironically, he didn’t set out to be a journalist, either.

I graduated from high school the year you were born.

Social media isn’t second nature to me.

I found myself drawn to HBO’s “The Newsroom” June 24, even after reading spot-on scathing reviews about how preachy it is.

Aaron Sorkin created “The West Wing” with Charlie Sheen’s dad as president, for which he won multiple Emmy Awards, but I never watched it. He won an Academy Award for screenwriting in 2010 for “The Social Network,” which I’ve not seen. He received another Oscar nod for co-writing “Moneyball.” Big baseball fan that I am, I’ve not seen it, either.

Sorkin’s characters pontificate, like fictional cable news anchor Jeff Daniels, a loner who “speaks truth to stupid.” We lived in the same dorm in college.

“The Newsroom” resonates with those who remember serious Watergate reporting like “All the President’s Men,” which brought down President Richard Nixon before news merged with entertainment.

Journalists as heroic crusaders. There’s an ambitious blast from the past.

The improbably handsome duo of Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford portrayed the intrepid Watergate truth seekers in 1976.

Daniels’ character, prodded by his executive producer (Emily Mortimer) sets out to “reclaim the fourth estate” as an “honorable profession.”

“There’s nothing that’s more important in a democracy than a well-informed electorate,” he says.

I don’t know that a TV drama can be expected to elevate the low level of public discourse, but it appeals to those of us old enough to remember chasing stories instead of tapping on laptops to troll the internet.

Sorkin told Entertainment Weekly, “Reporters used to be the good guys in popular culture, and I wanted to write them that way.”

Don’t take my word for it, Mel B. Check it out.

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