Ethan Van Sice–“I am NOT a Professional (…but I’m trying)”

Ethan Van Sice

I am NOT a Professional

….But I’m trying

Some days, I’m not very good at doing my job.

I stagger through a laundry list of bad decisions. I think I’m smarter than I actually am. And I stick to a weekly routine like an ice cube sticks to the ceiling.

I forget things. Like my car keys.

My co-workers will testify, my keys are the only things that could ever keep me from “heading out early for the weekend”. But I often do it anyway. I might have to flip over a few desk chairs and wash out the coffee pot before I can find them, but before long I’m running out the door like a person who’s shoes are actually tied, and who’s hands are definitely not.

I like having freedom to roam and meet people. My job description sort of makes it an imperative of survival—and that helps too.

But unfortunately, I also get into a lot of trouble over some easily avoidable misfortunes because I’m kind of an idiot.

But even idiots have motivation sometimes. I’m not lazy by anybody’s sober opinion; not after my 1-2.5 hours of oversleep, no way. By then I’m off to the races, tirelessly chasing a goodie bag of egotistically inflated “hunches” and side projects.

Sometimes I forget that I’m placing myself very intimately into very many people’s lives.

It usually happens under very crucial, privileged circumstances; and the people involved are guarenteed to be at one of the furthest possible poles on the emotional/excitability spectrum or the other. It’s a lot to take in. It’s a lot of responsibility. And this is the same T-shirt I had on yesterday… Every day, no matter what, I’m going to be talking to someone about death, or money, or crime, or scandal, or praise. I then have to muddle through all the scuttlebutt and rumors thrown in my face on the drive back to the office. Cashiers. Dog-walkers. Facebookers. And then I have to organize tangible facts into something called a “story”, which sounds a lot more fun than actually is.

It’s writing, but without imagination. You have to consciously remind yourself that the stories you are writing need to be stories that you didn’t “actually write”. They’re not outlets for creativity. They’re supposed to be handled very delicately, because whether your readers choose to believe you or not, you are still implicatively stamping out sheets of truth. You’re responsible for people’s actions. You’re responsible for their good name, and how they’re going to be remembered. And because such crucial information can be so horribly misrepresented by even so much as a “hunch” or side project, one minor sidestep out of journalistic ethics could hurt your credibility, or even worse, your own neighbors.

Last week I made a foolish mistake. In a follow-up report about two locals who’d just lost their lives in a house fire, I cited details about the victims’ past which were unflattering, not provenly relevant to the case, and so therefore—IN NO WAY FITTING FOR A NEWS ARTICLE WITH ONLY ONE MAIN EMPHASIS OR REPORTATIVE AVENUE.

No matter how confident one reporter may be his/her “to be continued” epilogue, it should in no way wrap up the announcement of a confirmed death with a person’s criminal history. It may be some bold, risky investigating. But it’s pretty lousy reporting.

More importantly, it’s terribly disrespectful to the family and friends of the deceased.

I received a very heartfelt, very explosive, very angry message from a member of the victim’s family. As with anything being said with unbridled emotion, some daggers were thrown my way which left me offended. After which I responded with some equally insensitive words, as a means of defense for my quickly deflating, dumb, big fat head.

Well, in a strange twist of irony, what resulted from that conversation easily transformed into a witch hunt. It began as a coalition against my professionalism or lack there-of, then the newspaper as a whole, then me as a person, then me as a person with an unfavorable past, then me as a white person, until finally I was racist person who was tearing the community apart.

Talk about tasting your own medicine. The shoe was on the other foot. I was at that point having MY good name compromised by other people’s words. Not a good feeling at all. And also not at all my intention.

I am not a proffessional. Not yet. But I am trying my hardest to be the best news editor I can be. I want to be a serviceman to this County, not the cause of strife or pain or hatred.

I know that sometimes, in order to live up to the community’s and my own expectations, I’m going to have to swallow my pride and remember that I’m not a private investigator. To the family members of the deceased, I am sorry for being insensitive to your loss. I am sorry for haphazardly writing things that have hurt you. I am sorry for not quite being up to par yet as a newspaper person.

I do believe that all things happen for a reason, and I know that I’ve personally taken something very valuable from this situation. In continuance to my oath of service in Wilcox County, I vow to mark this day as a day of growth. With your acceptance, I promise to make sure that growth continues.

4 Comments

  1. Mike Buchanan (jr.) on March 7, 2017 at 11:35 am

    As if you don’t have enough pressure, it should also be noted that you are producing the local history book. In a hundred years, if anyone wants to know what was going on, they will go to the library and read the paper assuming it’s not all digital by then. You have a responsibility to future generations to get it right. The town needs a paper. So get up! Dust yourself off! And get it right. Your doing okay. Your not going to be your grandfather over night. I sure do miss reading Mr. Hollis’ s stuff.

    From a guy you don’t know,

    Micheal D. Buchanan Jr.

  2. AP on March 7, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    I happen to be a former resident of Wilcox county. Im not calling into question your past or anything racial.
    My questions are simple. What does a persons past criminal history has to do with a news story that is in no way connected to the crime that the person commited or any thing criminal. It not just you that have done things such as this but the media as a whole

  3. Heidi Stone on March 7, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    I am one of the people who was critical of your article, but I must say, it takes a person of character and integrity to admit being wrong. So saying, you rose to the occasion, and there is hope yet…lol. Everybody makes mistakes. Some more serious than others. Congrats on being human. I hope that thefamily of the deceased can find forgiveness for you in their time of bereavement.

  4. Steven Gregory on March 7, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    Everyone makes mistakes. How you respond to your mistakes are part of the fabric that makes you a man. Judging by how you responded in this article, I’d say you are well on your way.
    Apologies are a part of life. I’ve given out more than I care to admit. My advice, give it hell when you are right, never waiver from your beliefs, apologize when you are wrong.

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