The Washington Times - October 16, 2008, 12:27PM

I missed something. I thought this election was going to be about Joe Six-Pack, but it looks like it’s going to be about Joe the Plumber.

It’s not surprising, really. You see, Joe Six-Pack is an ill-defined hypothetical construct, but Joe the Plumber is real. He is really real. Really.


He is what we in the journalism business call a “real person.” We like to put “real people” into our stories because it makes our stories more relevant, more believable, more — what’s the word?real.

It’s just that “real people” are hard to find.

A “real person” is someone who is NOT a journalist, a politician, a lobbyist, a lawyer, a political strategist or a pollster. It’s someone who does not work in a think tank, nonprofit group, watchdog organization, consulting firm or government agency. You won’t find any “real people” in the U.N., the World Bank, the NRA, PETA or AAA.

Someone who is in a highly specialized field — say, a thoracic surgeon or a rocket scientist — isn’t a “real person.”

Bankers, stockbrokers, corporate executives and hedge fund managers aren’t “real,” but you probably already knew that.

Doctors, dentists and veterinarians can be “real” if they 1.) do not make a lot of money in their profession, 2.) are not well known in their field, 3.) do not serve as the head of any board or association, and 4.) do not belong to a country club. (You cannot be “real” if you belong to a country club.)

Actors can’t be “real people” even if they play some on TV. Likewise, musicians, dancers, jugglers, trapeze artists — anyone involved in performance entertainment or art can’t be “real.” So painters, poets, writers, sculptors, etc. — ain’t “real.”

Sports have an inverse relationship to “realness.” Major league athletes aren’t “real,” but some minor league athletes are. In fact, the less major the league, the more “real” the players. Amateur and college athletes can be “real” if they are not frequently mentioned in news reports, especially TV. Anyone who is mentioned frequently on TV cannot be “real.”

With all these strictures on “realness,” you can see why a lot of journalists find it difficult to find “real people” in their daily work. But now we have one — Joe the Plumber.

Unfortunately, now that everyone knows about Joe the Plumber, he is no longer “real.”