Early on in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, Rory gets some bad news: The Atlantic, she learns, has spiked one of her stories.
Rory explains this turn of events to Lorelai as just one of those things: a story bumped for space—a common, if frustrating, occurrence. After watching the Gilmore Girls revival, though, I have come to a different, if totally self-serving, conclusion: Maybe The Atlantic has simply realized what Rory herself has not. Maybe our fictional editors simply discovered that Rory Gilmore, her gleaming résumé notwithstanding … is not a very good journalist. That she might even be, actually, an actively bad journalist.
Most publications have ethics guidelines that their reporters and writers follow. And almost all publications have basic standards that they lay out, which are in turn meant to lend some structure to the day-to-day doings of individual journalists. Here are some of the rough guidelines that Rory systematically violates in A Year in the Life:
- When your editor calls you, answer the phone.
- If the line, when you do answer, has bad reception because your hometown pretty much exists in 1954, stay in one place when you finally get a decent connection. Do not, once you have found reception, keep walking around.
- If you must keep walking, however, calmly explain that you’ll call the editor back. Do not say, “I’m heading to the trees! I’m heading to the treeeees!” as you run toward a random grove. The editor, who cannot see the trees, will only be confused by this.
- When you are interviewing a source, it can be nice to converse with that person, in a pleasantly human-to-human fashion, before sticking a (micro)phone in his face.
- This one’s pretty important: When you are interviewing a source, do not fall asleep as he’s talking to you.
- This one’s even more important: Do not sleep with a source.
- But especially if that source is dressed as a Wookiee.
- Not to belabor the point, but not only is sleeping with a source completely unethical; it also makes you a pretty pernicious cliché.
- Don’t call editors’ cell phones to pitch them stories: Just because you know their numbers doesn’t mean you should use them. Email is best.
- When out on a reporting trip, wear comfortable clothes. High-heeled shoes, for example, probably won’t end up being, after a day spent standing in lines and walking the streets of downtown New York City, a terribly good choice.
- When you are reporting a story about the group psychology of people who wait in lines, and you happen upon a line in which people are waiting even though they do not know what they are actually waiting for, you should probably actually talk to those people rather than breezing on by.
- Do not be discouraged when it turns out that your mother, who is naturally curious and gregarious, might actually be better at reporting than you are.
- When you go for a job interview, even if you’re feeling confident about your chances of being hired, it’s a good rule of thumb to come into the interview with some ideas for stories you would want to write for the publication in question.
- Condé Nast is a company, not a publication. Meeting with it might not do you a lot of good, landing-a-job-wise.
- Don’t feign interest in a story—say, about the group psychology of people who wait in lines—that you actually do not care about. Even if GQ is the publication that wants you to be interested.
- If you suddenly take over the editorship of a small-town newspaper, it’s probably a good idea to consult with the readers who look forward to the paper’s traditional front-page poem before deciding that your first move as editor will be to get rid of the paper’s front-page poem.
- The Stars Hollow Gazette is not The New York Times.
- The Stars Hollow Gazette is not the Hartford Courant.
- Do not take David Carr’s image in vain.
- Do not try to be David Foster Wallace. Many have tried; only one has succeeded.
Every reporter has her own methods, of course, and Rory may well be—as a GQ editor reminds her—a witty, erudite writer. But an exceptional journalist? Maybe The Atlantic was onto something. Amy Sherman-Palladino, Gilmore Girls’s creator, writer, and executive producer, once expressed her annoyance that so many of the show’s fans seem to care more about Rory’s romantic fate (Dean? Jess? Logan?) than about her professional one. “It’s just such a small part of who Rory is,” Sherman-Palladino told Time, of her character’s romantic life. “I don’t see people debating ‘Did she win a Pulitzer yet?’”
Spoiler: She didn’t. And the show has now provided a pretty good explanation of why.