WEEK 8: Understanding others | WEEK 9: When you're passionate... | WEEK 10: The little things count
Have you ever met a journalist that isn't passionate?
Let's face it. Doing this job isn't going to make you rich. It isn't going to make you a better partner or spouse -- as a matter of fact, it will likely, at some point, take a toll on your personal relationships. You're going to miss friends' weddings because of the gig. Did I mention you aren't likely to get rich?
So, why do we pour ourselves into this profession? Because we typically have a passion. Whether the passion is for social justice, politics, sports, racial equality or Beyonce, journalists are a passionate bunch.
Last week, I wrote that journalists can't be objective, but best be fair and thorough. So, what happens when you have to be fair and thorough on something of which you are either passionately for, or passionately against?
The answer is easier than you think. The answer is, YOU DO YOUR JOB.
Let's say you are a Red Sox fan. How do you write a profile about Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter? You can't get rid of your fandom, nor do you need to do so. However, you must be able to look at Jeter's career - his fantastic statistics, his wins, the way he stayed out of trouble and seemed to be a solid teammate - and write a thorough piece.
What if you are a Yankees fan writing the piece? You don't get to gush. You point out those statistics. You write about his positives, but you also address criticism - that maybe the team gave him too much toward the end of the career, that maybe he was closed off.
As a student covering your school's team (even in the Frozen Four), a member of a Greek organization involved in the coverage of fraternity malfeasance, a Democrat at the GOP national convention... if you can't do it fairly, thoroughly and well balanced, be transparent -- tell your editors/producers, colleagues and your audience where you stand, if it is important, and/or recuse yourself.
Because we know you are passionate.
Let's take a look at three great - and diverse! - stories on this fall's presidential election.
This is a 1994 profile on Hillary Clinton published in The New Yorker. It is largely considered to the most thorough article written about her. Connie Bruck penned the piece and it was published while Clinton was First Lady. I could not find anything on how Bruck felt, but - regardless of her political leanings or feelings toward Clinton - Bruck was fair and thorough. This is what someone quoted in the article noticed: "Bruck got members of Congress, the White House staff, news people back in Little Rock, old classmates and seemingly every friend Hillary ever had to talk about her — gushing usually but sometimes too revealing." Bruck never got Clinton on record, but did get her husband - the president! - to talk for two hours.
Here is one on Donald Trump from Playboy in 1997. Journalist Mark Bowen has described his time interviewing Trump as "long, awkward." He wasn't impressed with the real estate mogul, instead finding Trump to be "adolescent," "profane," "dishonest" and "unkind." Yet, would you ever have gathered that from the profile? No. Trump sounds like the over-the-top, boisterous personality he is.
And, here is one (if you don't want to read either of those long reads) that PBS News Hour uses to describe a prevailing attitude in Rust Belt swing states. I particularly love the balance shown here, as well as the convergence of broadcasting and print journalism.
2019 FIFA Women's World Cup: Media, Fandom, and Soccer's Biggest Stage is available online from Palgrave Macmillan. (Hardback available in September 2021.)
Molly Yanity, Ph.D.