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.