December 7, 2010
Flirting with Journalism
I visited the National's offices last week and was very pleased to discover that the work environment of the leading English paper of the Gulf confirms the excellence of its contents. This is a newspaper that even got approved by the novelist of our times, Jonathan Franzen, who accepted to conduct an interview with them! How could my ubber-developed commentaries on his book be more interesting than an actual moment with the writer?
I have always been attracted to journalism but have never found my fit and that visit was another attempt in my long history of flirting with journalism. I presented myself as a blogger. I soon discovered what I already knew deep down: a blogger is not a journalist.
My flirting with journalism began when I applied to a college specialized in communications, Emerson, but predictably I chose to study liberal arts instead at Smith College. At the early age of 17, I had the innate feeling that I would prefer Latin American Literature to a more technical and professional degree at Emerson. That decision didn't end the constant trials with the field of journalism.
One out of two internships I did, was with the Khaleej Times, pre-internet days, when things were done by humans instead of electronically, and cutting and pasting still necessitated scissors and glue.
I never wrote in a college paper. In graduate school, at Fletcher, at the Morrow center, I tried a journalism class and then backed out when I found out I had three stories to write: the local, the national and the international. It was the local, the sensationalist story, that intimidated me the most.
My strongest connection to journalism is my daily reading of Le Monde. I took the lifetime opportunity, many years ago, to travel with Le Monde to Iran with my brother. We were in the company of my favorite columnists for a week and I was astounded at how wiry and energetic the journalists were, such as Mona Naim, the talented correspondent for Saudi Arabia and Iran.
I know how to stalk celebrities and talented people like journalists do, but I cannot come up with their inquisitive questions. It takes a special type of person to conduct an interesting interview, one in which you almost harrass your interviewee. Likewise, I think my writing is pretty good, but I know that I put too much of myself in my writing. Journalists manage to keep a safe distance from their writing, putting the person, event or place they are writing about into focus rather than themselves. It is a skill I admire but prefer not to hone.
In the end, the blog seems to be the best means for me to get my point and my opinions across, even if my audience isn't a whole region, but rather a set of faithful family and friends, and friends of friends. I may have flirted with journalism but in the end, my true love is blogging.