Monday, September 14, 2009

Journalism: Do You Have What it Takes?

Sara Alone

"I want to be a journalism major," the new graduate explained.

My muscles tightened. All I could think was... are you sure?

Journalism seems to be an obvious choice if you can write. Here's the deal though. It takes courage to be a journalist.

This past weekend I spent time with the writer of this controversial post, and she reminded me that she almost never chooses her own titles/subtitles. It takes a thick skin to let someone else pitch your articles through their version of the angle. Would you have what it takes?

In the case of this particular article, the title probably caused as much stir as the article itself. But the writer accepts her publisher's choices, even if it means eventual heat for her. She also occasionally accepts edits she doesn't necessarily agree with. It's par for the course. You cannot be a journalist without accepting these rules of the game. Would you have what it takes?

As a journalist, you can't just write your own opinion on things; you need to be part of a larger conversation. I marveled that the writer of this particular article opened a new side of the conversation... one she knew was less popular... because she understands her position in the journalistic world. But it takes guts to do that. In her case, if you read the comments, you'll even see what feels suspiciously like a death threat. Would you have what it takes?

I don't. But I deeply respect the people who do.


Speaking of journalists, I had the pleasure of meeting Mark Galli this weekend. And now I know what he likes to drink. (And he knows what my kids and I like to eat for dessert.) Oh yeah, and my Little One liked his talk on Liturgy.

Mark Galli

Dublin House

"Sara Alone", "Mark Galli", and "Dublin House" photos, by L.L. Barkat.

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Blogger Sarah said...

Death threats? Yikes! Still . . . there's something in me that's drawn to having a public platform for exposing the truth.

6:22 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Wow. I read the article and have to say it has me thinking. Read some of the comments too and "shocked" may be too mild a word.

This can't help surfacing:

Are people crazy?

They compare apples and oranges.

I am always moved by passion. Sounds like an exciting weekend. Definitely not boring.

8:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nope, i couldn't cut it in journalism. oops, did i say that?

11:49 PM  
Blogger Jennifer @ said...

I think the worst part of journalism, for me, was having to bury my heart. It was a survival tactic, for how else can you knock on the door of a murder victim's mother?

I think, too, there is the necessary growing of a thick skin, so one can survive it. (However, I spent many nights in tears back in the privacy of my living room.)

Yet, I think that other types of writing are harder still.

At least in journalism, there is this daily sense of satisfaction in having found the day's news and shared it with readers -- even when it came with personal risk. Then, the next day, doing the same thing. And again, and again ...

Other kinds of writing don't offer that same kind of short-term gratification and sense of daily accomplishment of having served a vital purpose in this democracy.

As Philip Graham of the Washington Post once said: "News is the first rough draft of history."

That's the sort of truth that kept me going.

11:55 PM  
Blogger Lorrie said...

Nancy - your comment gave me my first giggle of the day!!

I like to think that I have what it takes but I know in reality that I do not... which makes me feel cowardly. I was in an on-line discussion at a book club forum that got heated. My Christian views on the subject at hand got pretty gnarly with the atheists in the discussion. I was standing my ground and was threatened enough that I deleted my whole profile. They scared me! So no... don't have what it takes :-(

7:18 AM  

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