Fishbowl 5: Christian Bourge’s Life After Layoff

christian bourge.jpg Christian Bourge has been working in DC journalism for 14 years. Best known for his reporting at Congress Daily and his stint with the Washington Times editorial page, Bourge actually began his career with the Washington Post in 1996. Since the mass layoffs at the Times, Bourge has launched his own blog “The Disenchanted Journo” and has continued doing The Capital Hill Blues radio show on XM. FishbowlDC recently checked in with Christian to learn about his life after the layoff and his new projects.

What’s with the name of your new blog? Are you really disenchanted? How could anyone not be disenchanted in this biz? The name just seemed to fit. When I left The Times in January I was amazed when people kept asking me if I would start lobbying. In a way it was a compliment in that I’ve always worked as a very old school reporter, building relationships and getting to know people. But it’s a sad testament to the state of journalism.

We journalists have made money for other people for years. Quality content and reporting, not just getting something first, is something appreciated less and less by media companies despite the fact that without good content, they have nothing. Hence, The Disenchanted Journo.

So, what can we expect to read on your blog? The straight news on what is really happening in Washington and the world without any political or ideological bias. You can expect to laugh, catch some occasional breaking news, and read an honest, informed assessment about what is happening in the world.

People have gotten used to being fed politically driven commentary or self-serving reporting and not reading the real news and analysis behind what is happening. It’s a shame because keeping the public informed and government leaders on their toes used to be the only important thing. At least that is how we like to remember it.

I’ve also taken the idea for the column I was supposed to write for TWT – The Good Life – to my website. I know and love great wine, great restaurants and great cigars. I’m a total foodie, wine and cigar snob but that’s not exclusive to expensive food and drink. Growing up in New Orleans will teach you one thing – the fanciest restaurant and the biggest dive should share one thing – great drinks and food.

What’s the biggest misconception about working in journalism in DC? That there is any glamour – it’s all faked. There are a lot of people that believe it is real, or at least have convinced themselves of it, but this is DC, not New York. It’s all an affectation. If you have to import people from New York and LA to make the biggest event of the year (The WHCA Dinner) seem glamorous, you’re not cool. You don’t see many politicians and reporters being invited to the Academy Awards. Al Gore had to lose a presidential election to attend.

Also, that you have to be some sort of schlub. Who says you can’t dress better than a Senator? It puts interviewees on edge if you are dressed better than they are. It’s shallow but true.

Read about Bourge’s plans for the future, his advice for new grads and his book after the jump and don’t forget to check out The Disenchanted Journo here.

What advice would you give to J-school students or new grads hoping to land a job in media? Don’t become a reporter if you can’t write. I’ve met so many interns and young reporters that cannot and it amazes me. This is not human resources.

If you’re an undergrad, avoid J school. It is a waste. Get a real education, learn about a policy sector or field. J School has its place at the post grad level. But you can only learn to be a great reporter by being around great reporters and doing it yourself. And without the knowledge of a good education you are of use to no one.

Lastly, if you’re not tough and willing to fight, go to business school. You won’t learn anything there either, but at least you can be the man in the grey flannel suit while making some cash.

What else is new? Are you looking for a job or is this it for now? Of course I’m looking for a regular reporting job. It’s not like there is a fortune to made in blogging. Nevertheless, I do have long-term hopes for the site. I didn’t start it as just a promotion vehicle. I attempted to raise money to start my own online magazine to only see it all fall apart during the 2008 Republican National Convention (Oh, the irony!) when it became clear just how low the economy was. I’d like to move toward that model in the future.

I’ve also returned to writing a book about the first major Catholic molestation scandal to gain international headlines. It resulted in the first lawsuits against the church for a pedophile priest. It just happens to have occurred in my parents’ hometown in Louisiana where I spent summers as a kid. I knew many of the players involved.