Missing: Personal Voice

We’ve been talking about voice a lot in lecture — how to incorporate voice into reporting while maintaining accuracy and avoiding bias. Our teacher, Katherine, mentioned how some people have voice in their blogs but not in their news writing, and I’m pretty sure I’m one of those people.

I got into writing like many journalists: through creative writing. I always liked to tell stories, and in first grade, my teacher gave me a notebook to fill with those stories when I got done with work early. I spent hours writing about fairies and treehouses in the woods, Carmen Sandiego and Scooby-Doo’s latest adventures and the joys of being outside. My artistic friends and I would sometimes even collaborate — I’d stick to the text while they’d draw the illustrations. And a few years later, I even wrote the first few chapters of my first novel, which I thought would change the way the world thought about the future.

But somewhere between elementary school and now, that voice — that creativity — got lost.

I can’t pin this loss down to one event, or one class, or one teacher, or one anything. I just think that, as middle and high school classes demanded more free-response and essay topics and assignments, writing became more of a chore for me than anything else, and I lost the time and motivation for and interest in writing for myself. Thus, when I wrote, it was usually something canned, factual and, therefore, boring.

I think keeping this blog — for myself, then for Fundamentals of Multimedia Journalism and now for News Reporting — has been really good in terms of helping me find a voice again. Writing casually (though for some semblance of an audience — you never know who will be reading this) has allowed me to write how I think, and perhaps how I would write to a friend. This, I’ve learned, is more of what should go into a news story than stuffy jargon and a laundry list of information that only experts are guaranteed to understand. Because, after all, they’re not the main audience, right?

That’s something I’ve been working on this semester — and something that my editor emphasizes I need to keep working on. I like to think I’ve become better at synthesizing information, which has always been a struggle for me, so I’m going to focus on voice this last part of the semester. I want anything I write — whether it be a profile or a meeting recap — to be something I would voluntarily read past the nut graph.

That being said, I also want to try creative writing again. One of my good friends, a fellow journalist, picked it up again the other day and says it’s made her happy. So, in my (somewhat limited) spare time, I’m going to try that.

And yes, Liz, I’ll also try reading poetry again. I got burnt out in high school from all of the excruciatingly bad poetry submissions I had to read as literary magazine editor, so I need to find good poetry and remember what that reads like. I think you’re right — it’ll remind me of the value of words and rhythm. (Poetry recommendations are welcome — Shel Silverstein and Judith Viorst were my favorites as a kid.)

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