Opinion Column

Investment in journalism as a career important

By Leah Simonot, Camrose Canadian

I wrote 12 academic papers between September and April, meaning I put in at least 12 all-nighters. There’s a peacefulness to writing while the sun sleeps; silence is easily come by and nobody is awake to read over my shoulder, least of all my hyperactive inner critic.

 

The dangers to this are many: clumsy sentences and spelling errors, to name the obvious. But as the sunrise announces an impending deadline, I am forced to finish my conclusion before second-guessing everything I wrote. Nothing accuses me of stalling better than sun at the end of a sleepless night.

I do not, however, have a method for writing columns. I simply avoid them.

Although I drafted this column in early May, I refused to revise it until I was sitting in my office at the Canadian this Monday, one day before publication. I knew that if I allowed myself, I would spend the entire month fussing over the first sentence only to scrap my draft shortly before the deadline.

But if there were ever a time for this piece on my dread of columns, it would be now. Having completed my first-year at the University of King’s College in Halifax, N.S., where I moved this fall to study journalism, I look forward to spending the next 12 weeks in Camrose interning at the Canadian. I spent a fair amount of time here contributing to the paper as a work experience student in Grade 11 and 12, but I am excited to experience the newsroom as a full-time reporter, as well as to reconnecting with many kind Camrosians over the summer.

That said, “home for the summer” implies the inevitable re-emergence of childhood photos and other such evidence of bad hair cuts and awkward phases. I am thus extra aware that my writing endures its own awkward phases. For example, I recently unearthed from my parents’ basement a Grade 4 “SA,” as I titled it, on Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep:

“Rocky Mountain big horn sheep really have explainable names. They live in the Rocky Mountains and they have two big horns … When I started my report I thought that they were boring but their (sic) not, when you finish you’ll love them as much as I do.”

It is not excellent; and yet, I remember the pride with which I submitted it.

I don’t need to look so far back as this to poke fun at my own writing. Surely it is only a matter of time before I see this in print and cringe?

As stayed up all night with my essays, I came to terms with the reality that I can’t stuff the whole world — past, present and future —i nto one paper. It won’t fit. There is, however, a lot to be said for a strong thesis and well-chosen evidence.

Really, it is not entirely different from my approach to journalism; that is, researching, connecting with good sources, taking care not to bury my lede, and packaging a story as clearly as possible.

Try as I would, I can’t quote the whole world in one story. But with a commitment to fair and unbiased reporting, I believe it is possible to accurately represent aspects of the world. This is part of what continually fascinates me about good journalism.

Time and again I’ve been asked why I invest in a “dying profession” that will “never make up for my tuition.” If anything, this question encourages me in my pursuit. Perhaps journalism won’t correct the outrageous price of education, or any other problem for that matter. But I believe striving as journalism does to understand, from all angles, the issues that affect our world locally and globally is a worthwhile step towards a solution. As such, I fail to see how it is not crucial to invest in journalism.

I can’t expect to fit my whole world into one column either. Unfortunately, this means I can’t promise a future self I won’t someday take a harsh red pen to this page, or to anything else I write. But it is fitting to my theme of homecoming and the memory of awkward phases that I should acknowledge the value of accepting mistakes as evidence of growth.

So, while I can’t do away with my concern that I will someday laugh at what I write here, I am grateful for this opportunity to develop my method for writing columns in a city where I have learned so much. I look forward to learning a lot more here — especially about journalism — in the weeks to come.

 

lsimonot@postmedia.com

 



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