I pulled on suspenders, faked a New York accent, and sold, “Papes” after I saw the musical movie Newsies in the early '90s. It was not long until my parents suggested I put down the bundle of ink and paper, pick up a pen, and sit at a keyboard and write. It was a step up, I suppose. But, to a six year old, it wold mean giving up the fist-fights, rock-slinging, and cruising with pals. Or, did it? Not long after that discussion, while in the first-grade and with the help of my father, I started my first paper. It was a small newsletter and it covered the topics we miniature people thought were important at seven years old. There would be a couple of other renditions of this activity. Eventually, I worked for my college paper and then a daily paper in New Hampshire. Similar to my music, writing as a journalist drifted in and out of my life for a long time. An interest in reporting always sparked when something of importance took place. I would get a feeling, down deep within myself, a compelling jolt to write. The notion of actually becoming a reporter as a profession did not arrive until after I had graduated from college and I was standing on a barren job site dotted with large machines and: hot, dirty, and tired. My tardy recognition that mos of my life had been an accumulation of practical skills, development of style and talent, accumulation of life experience, and training for the work of a journalist was a welcomed revelation. But, it did not arrive with the complimentary companion of knowing how to become a reporter. I found a job board for journalists, and I applied often. I spoke with aging newspaper fellows, and most of them offered little insight and even less encouragement. Most of them were either retired or were soon to be retired. They greeted my questions with scowls and snorts of confusion. Most asked a variation of this question, “Why the hell do you want to do this?” And then they offered advice, “Go do something that will make you some money.” I thanked them for their time and continued on my way. I possessed no illusions about the business. I was not chasing romantic ideals. I was interested in working with a purpose in a profession I felt was a calling. In lieu of words of advice or helpful direction from anyone, I read a lot. I conducted my own graduate course of journalism and writing and reporting and chasing stories. I found a job board for journalists and applied often. I spoke with aging newspaper fellows, most of them offered little insight and even less encouragement. Most were either retired or on their way out. They greeted my questions with scowls and snorts confusion. Most asked a variation of this question, “Why the hell do you want to do this?” And then, they offered advice, “Go do something that will make you money.” I thanked them for their time and continued on my way. Illusions of the business did not occupy space in my mind. I was not chasing romantic ideals, drunk on visions of All The Presidents Men. Working with a purpose, in a profession I felt was more a calling than a career, and addressing the issues of my lifetime were the current pulling at me. In lieu of helpful words of advice or constructive directions, I read a lot. I conducted my own graduate course of journalism: the style was literary, the skills were writing and research and questioning, the substance was truth, and writing and chasing stories were the fuel. My qualifications expanded. The next step was to land a spot in a newsroom- I needed an opportunity to prove myself and learn the grit and grime of the job. Academic understanding needed to be replaced with active participation. I sent cover letters, resumes, and inquires of work, willing to relocate anywhere. These inquires were either lost in the abyss of job-searching or returned with a note. The note often went like this, “We see your potential and admire your drive, but you do not have enough experience yet.” Well, holy-shit. How the hell is one to get experience without an opportunity to do so? Through the grind and frustration of futile application mailings, I learned that my will and resolve to press forward and do the work was unwavering. I had lost many battles throughout my lie, and I would lose man more as the years passed, but I never did, nor have I ever surrendered the war. An opportunity finally arrived when an editor at Foster's Daily Democrat granted me the chance to cover stories as a freelancer. The day my first publication ran was a moment I will never forget. I was living in China, working on a very different story when it was printed, but I was able to see the copy online. My byline, the story on the front page, and knowing I had helped a good organization get their message out was monumental. And so, I have carried on and followed stories and events of interest around the world and America. It has all been on my own dime, to this point. Writing the stories I have uncovered, encountered, and experienced between here and there. A continuous process of perpetual learning, this writing business is. And, as I continue to hone my style and proficiency as a reporter and story-teller, I am confronted with the mechanics of securing buyers. This endeavor has taken me around the world. I lived in Western China for a while in 2014 while I followed an American ultra-marathon runner who had been living throughout China for nearly five years. Our time together began in Shangri-La, a city that is culturally Tibet and claimed by the Chinese and shaped by extreme forces of nature: high altitude, freezing winters, little water, and towering mountains. I followed him as he migrated south to Dali, a tourist destination for many, but for us, it was optimum training ground: faster workouts with less wear on the body, an environment similar to the one he would race in, and a large mountain less than two miles from our small apartment. Time on the road does not always allow for planned exits. I found myself highly motivated to migrate south. I caught a midnight train towards the border in late June of 2014, I was bound for Indonesia. I traversed the island nation and engaged with the people, the environment around me, and followed one of my most important rules: Never leave, whatever domicile I am residing in, without my camera, my notebook, and pen. Other stops on that story-hunt included Oregon, San Francisco, New England, and then there was Germany, The Balkans, Africa, and the good ol' United States. The concerned expressions and incredulous questions regarding my motivation for pursuing this work continue. I remain undeterred. I consider journalism to be crucial. Real journalism, that is. It must be the brand of reporting that is stout and sturdy with truth. It must be a profession where the focus is sniffing out the important stories, scrapping off the glossy layers, and getting to the root, the source. Don't accept a first response as the complete truth. Follow up. Doggedly pursue with honorable intention- this last piece is important, there must be a measure of restraint and self-respect as well, there is no need to be the harassing vultures that appear far to often. There is always a line and sometimes it must be crossed, but the consequences should be realized and accepted before the feet move. The concerned expressions and incredulous questions regarding my motivation for pursuing this work continue to confront me, and I remain undeterred. My intentions are good and they are genuine, free of romantic notions or misplaced aspirations. Journalism is crucial, real journalism that is- I do not limit myself to classic outlets of newspapers and magazines; news is information that is true and the form in which it is delivered is of less importance to me than the successful transmission of hones reality. Whatever the style, classic or new-journalism, it must be a brand of reporting built with sturdy truth. As I work my way into this profession, I am dismayed at the state of journalism. This enterprise, vital to the health of society and the well being of peoples everywhere, is failing. Stories are written with shallow interest, subjects of importance are passed over for subjects considered to be more appealing to readership, and in short: business interests dictate far too much. Reporters have traded pride in delivering the heart of a story to the people for a desire to be celebrities in their own right. Political correctness has clipped the balls that are necessary to put forth truth when a glossed version would be easier. Covering a breaking story flogs good people into seething vultures who abandon the grace of humanity that is important to maintain. Editors misjudge their readership and are broken, forgetting a passion they once had- an eventual retirement is looming on the horizon. There is too much glitz and glamor in the business. Too many cliches are spouted and vocabularies are shrunken by sensationalistic and inflammatory adjectives- hyperbole rules the airwaves. If I never hear a reporter lazily describe something as, “A miracle,” it will be a fucking relief. There is value in reporting, despite the growing voice of nay-sayers who claim it is a dying business- maybe the structure of the business is changing, but there will always be a need for reporting. At least, there should be a need. What a sad and troubling day it will be if journalism withers and is overrun with the invasive presence of pop-news and the many extensions of sprawling political mouth-pieces. Journalists should carry themselves with pride, willing and content with their knowledge that they delivered the heart of a story to the people. They must not be vultures void of self-respect and a respect for others's emotions. It is a difficult balance to find, let alone maintain, but it must be strove for. They must pursue a story with dogged endurance, but their intentions must be honorable. Ratings and headlines and money are not worth sacrificing the humanity that reporting is meant to protect.
Stories quickly lashed together to sooth editor's demands, demands contrived from the unimaginative and uninspired minds of men and women who suffer from the panic of ownership groups gasping in a state of economic suffocation clip the scope of their reporters and they misjudge the interests of the communities they serve. It is not the local papers and regional news stations that are most shameful. The national news-outlets are an embarrassment to what was, at one time, a calling. They are the most watched, they wear the label of “credible” and “real” news, and in a society fixated on titles and labels, they are trusted. And, they fail at what is their most basic purpose: to deliver news. Too many are more celebrity than news-hound, chasing increasingly large pay-checks, notoriety, and book deals.
There is value in reporting when it is weighted by the responsibility for writers to tell the whole story, nothing but the story, so help their conscience. Whether it is encased in the narrow margins of a newspaper or given the room to run in a book does not diminish the core goal and responsibility of the writer at large. Good reporting, like most enterprises, is hard work, and hard work is best addressed when sleeves are rolled up and an effort of disciplined effort is put forth. It is a work that has suffered in the past decades, which leaves the people blind and uninformed. So much time has gone by, that people are even forgetting how to be informed, where to turn to for a source of news free of frills and flashing distractions, information they deserve and should demand. I am determined to bring this quality of story to them. I will deliver stories fresh from the source, unfiltered, undistilled.