First of all, I found suggested origin of the definition of the word piping hilarious: the act of making up quotes or inventing sources which came from the idea that the reporter was high from covering the police busts of opium dens. As light-hearted as this is, I found that the book made very viable point about the ethical principals of telling the truth in journalism. It made the point that just because someone writes fictitiously, does not mean they are making something up on purpose. The memory can affect the truth unknowingly to a certain degree.
As journalists we are to report the truth, but the book brings up another good point- whose truth? Where is the line between hard fact and point of view drawn? If I was covering the same story as another reporter, I may choose to paint the subject in a different light or describe the scene in a different way according to my own personal history and overall point of view. The other reporter may paint a completely different picture of a person or a place, but does that mean that one of us is fictionalizing while the other is sticking strictly to the facts? No. Although subjectivity is necessary in journalism, I think it is hard to achieve since there is no on and off switch for a person’s point of view. I think the main ethical question a journalist has to ask himself is whether or not his story will deceive.
I liked Anne Hull’s take on editing in Telling True Stories. She said successful editing means you are in a fierce competition with yourself and no one else. I think this couldn’t be truer since in essence you are the only person that can hold your story back from being awesome. I also love the advice she gives about listening to your editor’s critique of your story. She says, “Love the subject, not your rendering of it.” Sometimes you get so invested in a story that you can’t tell what it lacks or needs. If another person who reads it with a fresh perspective gives you advice, you should listen. Your ego isn’t worth ignoring what is most likely good advice that will make your story better.
Chapter 12 of Writing Feature Stories also makes good suggestions about editing. One of my favorite that I have found most useful recently in improving past stories is to edit line by line. Although this is painstaking and takes up a lot of time, I think it’s the best way to take your story to the next level. I was recently revising a story to turn in to be judged for competition, and I found that using this technique vastly improved my story. The main change I found myself repeatedly making by analyzing sentence by sentence was the verbs I was using. When writing a story, it’s often difficult for me to continuously crunch out sensational and appropriate action verbs. But when I’m finished writing the story, it is easier for me to go back and think of better verbs when I look at the context of the sentence.
I am ridiculously excited that my profile piece is about to begin. My “main character” just informed me that he is comfortable enough to do the interview, and I am very pleased with his decision.
My “main character” recently emailed me and said he was optimistic about my article. I asked him why did he choose the word optimistic, and he expressed that because people make homosexuality out to be the work of the devil, he feels optimistic about shining a more positive light on homosexuality.
My line of questioning is very deep and very personal. I informed him ahead of time that if there is any question he feels uncomfortable answering, he does not have to answer it. His response was that he is not uncomfortable, unashamed and unapologetic. He is who he is, and that’s why I chose him for this profile piece.
Obviously the first step to publishing an article is writing it. Once that part is done, you’ll feel a huge weight lifted off your shoulders. Don’t get too relaxed because the next step, editing, is equally important and much more meticulous. The most important part of proofreading your finished story is to mimic the freshness of a first-time reader, which seems impossible considering you’ve probably already read your article a thousand times. Telling True Stories reassures me that for new writers like myself “it can be a mess,” and I’ve got to figure out a way to organize and edit that mess. Writing Feature Stories outlines four main editing stages: filling in the gaps, reading out loud, editing line by line, and proofreading. To fill in the gaps, you may want to ask yourself: “Did I leave anything out?, Did I promise anything and if so, did I deliver? Did I overlook the obvious question?”. While editing your article try reading it aloud to make sure the tone matches the content, and the structure you chose tells the story well. Also, read it aloud to peers to judge their reactions to the lead and close. Editing line by line can be tedious but it’s necessary. Stephen King’s mentor told him “final draft=first draft-10%”, which means you need to do a significant amount of trimming, and you should start with those useless self-rightous phrases you threw in to show-off your intelligence. The last stage of editing should be proofreading, in which you need to read slow and focus on each word alone.
Successful rewriting requires a fierce sense of competition with yourself and no one else. While editing, keep style in mind. Some examples of style include “warmth of memory, telling detail and wit.” Telling True Stories suggests restoring worn out words, taking an art class to teach your mind how to look at things with varying perspectives and using concrete detail to engage the logical mind of readers. Also, examine the pace to make sure it “creates sustained immersion” for readers.
According to the syllabus, we are supposed to discuss editing today in class. For my blog post, I thought I would focus on reading stories aloud to check for errors. When we write something, we know exactly what we want to say. Often times, this leads to us missing our mistakes that are obvious to our readers. For example, I am terrible at leaving out articles when I type on Facebook. It’s not that I’m too stupid to know where they go, it’s just that I believe I put them there and I see them in my text. However, that’s in my head, not necessarily on the screen. Reading stories aloud forces us to focus on the words and pick up on things that don’t sound right. Not only can we catch errors through this process, but we can make sure a story flows or makes sense. I like to say reading the story aloud brings us closer to being nothing more than a reader of our work. Your readers are unlikely to miss things that you would as the writer, so catching these errors ahead of time is important.
Our latest assignment is a profile piece. I have two wonderful topics I want to write about, but I am not too sure which one speaks to me more.
My first topic is about my 75-year-old hair stylist. I found that this would make a wonderful article because most 75-year-olds are not running a hair salon full time. They are either retired and enjoying their time at home or living in a retirement home. She is 75 and moves around like she’s 20. I love it!
My second topic is about a homosexual African American man who was seen as the first to wear women’s clothing on campus. I chose him because he is unapologetic, bold, courageous, and he does not allow anything or anybody to get in his way. He’s an inspiration to individuals afraid of coming out of the closet.
Either topic would be amazing to write about, and in order to find out which of the two I select, you have to tune in..Dr. Chen.