I got some very interesting feedback today: someone asked me why there was such a difference between my work on LPJ and my work in the Reporter. I started to say because I don’t feel like I can afford to have an opinion in the paper, while on here I can, but they stopped me. The style, they said, that’s what they wondered about. Why the rigid style in the paper and the much more comfortable, conversational writing on here?
It was an interesting question. Whenever I tell someone I work for a newspaper they respond, “Oh, so you’re a writer?” I never know how to answer that. I’ve never considered myself a writer; I consider myself a reporter. Writing is the medium I use to get stories across, but the real product I create is the story. I like to think I’m OK at writing, but writer isn’t a title I would bestow on myself.
But their comment caught me. They obviously were more intrigued with my LPJ work than my Reporter work, and they suggested I might try applying my LPJ style to my reporting.
I went and looked back through my stories and understood what they meant, but I still have a challenge to deal with: how much of me and how much of my subjects are supposed to come through in my stories? How does that apply to the paper?
LPJ is mine, wholly and completely. I set it up because I’m passionate about reporting and the region I cover, and I don’t get paid to write any of these posts. I’m not representing anyone but myself in this venture, and if my personality shows through that’s fine. The Reporter, however, covers a city. I work there, just doing my job (reporting), and I shouldn’t overwhelm my subjects. That would do Berlin no good. I should almost invisible in the story, so to speak, in some ways.
But that doesn’t work either, because people don’t read blah stories. I could attend every council meeting from now until eternity, but if people aren’t reading what I’m writing what does it matter? It’s got to be captivating to get into people’s heads, or else they’ll put down the paper for the remote.
So I’ve decided to try to meld my reporting with the LPJ style, the one that has a bit more of my stamp in it. Hopefully it will help me improve what I’m producing and people to get reading about their city.
I started tonight with a council story about Councilor Danderson and his comments about the police department. Honestly I think it makes me look like I disagree with Councilor Danderson’s every word, but instead I just point out some hypocrisy in recent statements he’s made. I actually had one extra line that made him look even more of a hypocrite, but I took it out because it didn’t seem fair. But maybe it’s not fair to remove the line, because it’s all things he’s said and suggestions he’s made.
It’s a tough line to draw. It’s doubly tough because I’m not surrounded by colleagues who can weigh in with their opinions and experiences. But that’s the nature of the 21st century newsroom, where a laptop and a wireless connection are what make the news world go ’round.
This all goes along well with the last post about neutrality in the newspaper business. Hopefully I can toe the right line here, and inspire a more engaged citizenry in Berlin. One can only hope, right?