This is Danielle Kelley, logging into yet another blogging website. Let’s see how WordPress does. I’ve tried writing in multiple outlets, but I can’t seem to maintain the digital trail all my professors have been harping on me for. I study at the Manship School of Mass Communication at only the best college in the country – Louisiana State University.
I began my days at LSU wanting to be a journalist. I snagged a job at the campus paper, The Daily Reveille (which by the way, just won SPJ’s Best Daily Student Newspaper). I loved the adrenaline rush of deadline. I burned inside when I came up with a great question for a source. The Reveille was great, and my journalism classes were wonderful, but there were just a few thoughts that kept annoyingly buzzing in my brain. I tried to swat the pest-y questions away, but ultimately my brain beat my heart in a senseless battle.
What if I was assigned the crime beat my first few years at a “real” paper?
One of my honest instructors sat the small print news editing class down, and gave us a heart-to-heart. “Your first job will be the crime beat. No one wants the crime beat, so the editor gives it to the newest reporter on the job. You will have your cell phone on loud at night, in case you have to cover a murder in the early morning hours. You will have to interview weeping mothers, sobbing wives. You’ll have to ask them intrusive questions that go against instinct.”
Then he told us about a recent story he had to cover: a man on bath salts attacked his pregnant wife with a knife and cut the fetus out of her. The baby did not survive, and she barely did.
“How do you write that? How did you interview those sources?” I asked him.
He told me he’d built up a defense wall to the emotions. This is why editors give young reporters the crime beat; if you don’t learn to desensitize, you mentally and emotionally won’t be able to write hard news.
That week, my boyfriend’s fraternity brother was killed by a drunk driver. The Pike boys asked me to write his obituary. I interviewed his pledge brothers about Miles’ personality, hobbies and legacy. It was difficult to witness these boys try so hard to act like their idea of men. Some spoke softly and stared at the ground in disbelief. One laughed and smirked as if I couldn’t see the despair in his eyes.
I went to the newsroom and sat down at the computer. Everyone smiled at me halfheartedly as I entered; they saw my puffy eyes. After deleting the fourth draft of a lead, one of the editors moved my direction. He opened his mouth, paused, furrowed his eyebrows and turned around. No one could help me, and no one wanted to. They all knew one day they would have to write their first obituary.
I knew I could never build up my professor’s wall to pain, grief and emotion. I’m not sure if I would even want to not feel anger that a young soul was taken because of drunk driving.
After the obituary ran, I met with my counselor to ask her to switch my concentration from journalism to public relations. I would still write, but without the crime, death and destruction.
Writing is cathartic, but only if you write about your own life.
Thanks for reading,