It's this guy. Anthony Bourdain. A cook.
At the heart of all the best journalist is that you go to the heart of the story, that you invest yourself in the story you're telling, and that you change as the reader or viewer changes.
This is what Bourdain does. It's what no one else does, because we're all trained to be detached, like cops, or given the concept of a “false equivalency,” which makes all actions by anyone equally valid. Which is crazy.
What made Bourdain a journalist was his Beirut show in 2006. As he said, he went there as a snarky chef out to stuff his face and have a good time. He left it as a refugee, in an American warship. You can actually see the change take hold of him as the show goes on.
It never left. We can all be thankful for that. Because when you watch the run of his shows since then, he's a different man, with a different mission. Instead of having “fixers” show him where the good restaurants are, now he works to find sources who can tell him the story of a place. And then he sits, and he listens, and in the editing room he explains.
Or take his Nicaragua show. (The picture is from a Travel Channel photo album of the show, and does a good job of getting inside the process.) Bourdain admits to having had sympathies for Daniel Ortega, and meets many others who did so. But once he visits a garbage dump served by hundreds of families who pick through the rubble looking to scratch out $1 a day he changes. “Christ, I got a daughter that age,” he said, before doing this long drinking scene, shot from two different angles, that comes out looking like one of Gollum's monologues in “Lord of the Rings.”
It's really incredible.
Sure, Bourdain can still be snarky. He still eats. He has silly shows with his friends where the mission is to have a good time and show him having a good time. But even in these shows, he can sometimes take a dark turn, as when he went with his friend Samir to Chernobyl earlier this year, and suddenly discovered he'd absorbed more radiation, just walking around, than the average American absorbs in 10 years.
Bourdain doesn't do it alone. He has some of the best producers and cameramen in the business along for the ride. But it's his ride. It's great television.
It may be journalism's last and greatest stand. I'm jealous as hell. God bless Tony Bourdain.