Sunday, August 9, 2009

A journalist's compromise

A student conducts an interview for her feature article. (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99).
By Elizabeth Davis (Detroit, MI)

Writers, specifically journalists in this instance, need to have thick skin. It takes strength and courage to write a piece and then have it, for a lack of a better phrase, torn to shreds by an editor. When a writer creates something, that text becomes their offspring. All of the writer’s thoughts and feelings go into that one piece and as they look over it, they realize that it belongs to them – that it's their creation. When a journalist sees his or her finished work, it is as though he or she is the parent holding their newborn child. They feel that they must protect their "child" because he or she will inevitably be faced with harsh critics.

No one wants to see their child hurt or abused. However, a writer, much like a parent bringing their child to kindergarten for the first day, has to let go and watch their creation walk out into the world and change. It’s an indescribable feeling seeing what took so long to produce lose some of the qualities that made it so special.

At that moment, what some writers – including myself – fail to realize is that the piece of writing that is looked over is going through another phase of advancement and change. Much like people, writing needs to develop to communicate effectively. It may seem as though the editor is ripping, tearing and killing every last piece of the unique creature that was once the writer's work, but he or she is ultimately making it better.

In the final step of the editing process, the child is returned, like at the end of the kindergarten school day, and as the parent, writers hope for no injuries. Of course, there are always bruises, and writers need to cope with not being able to protect the "child" at all times – and that is where the difficulty lies. Writers must let go of their pride and concede to some of the changes that have been made.

Though it may be theirs, born of their minds, writers have to allow for criticism and enhancement of their work. Not all things have to be changed, but in order to produce something great and magnificent, much like a child, there needs to be room for improvement and compromise within a writer’s work.

It took some time, but I've realized that having my work changed doesn't mean that I'm a bad writer and maybe, just maybe, if I let someone edit my writing, it can become even better than it was when I first handed it to them.

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