The “me” in journalism

They say we learn best from our mistakes….they were right. I knew the moment I hit send I had made a pretty decent mistake. I put myself in an article. It’s ok, you can breath, I didn’t write an article that was completely biased (I would sooner stop writing). Here’s what happened:

I was tasked with writing an article on an annual weeklong community service project at my college. While writing this article I thought long and hard about what I wanted readers to take away from the article. The event had become slightly less grand in these modern years than it was three years ago when it started. Back then students spent every moment of the week building houses, fixing ramps, and other things that veterans of the event would later describe the immense tiredness that they felt. What they could not recall was the names of the people they helped. They saw them for those few days and then never again. (I could continue on and on about this subject matter and my feelings on it but I won’t). This year’s focus was more on relationships. Getting face to face with the people you were helping. I wanted to tell what the students and I had done (I participated in this event), but I knew it wouldn’t be on the same level as the first year it was done. I also wanted students to feel proud of their work.

So while writing this article I make a mistake. I put an anecdote in the story in which I mentioned that I had spent the summer interning for a non-profit in the community and gave a quote from the leader for this event and someone I consider a role model. The anecdote and quote was about not trying to do everything for everyone, about the futility in trying save the world that we should strive to make the world 1% better and everyone else should do the same.

That was possibly ok for the Alumnae publication that requested and printed it and maybe it was ok for the online newspaper. It was not however good for the local weekly that picked it up. Of course no one has said anything to me. That kind of feedback in foreign to me. Which is something I fear, that without feedback I won’t be a good journalist. I get tired of being told “you did good” and not see any conviction of this sentiment what so ever in the eyes of the one that praises it.  But that is a post for another day.  But I know I did something wrong. I knew deep down that I had no need to be in that story. Every time I shake my head in shame.

The objective however is to move on and learn from this…though I’m certain I won’t be making this mistake again.

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