Saturday, June 24, 2006

What ever happened

"This is a business, this journalism, that likes a good trend. We can examine it from four different directions and get some colelge professors to tell us what we ought to think, and we pass it on to the readers."

I hate that but I also know that all too well.

But I did not know that the story of Rick Bragg, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist would move me, would make me marvel at the struggles he and his family went through, through povery and abuse in the South.

All over but the shoutin', he says in the prologue, is for his mother.
"It is only the story of a strong woman, a tortured man and three sons who lived hemmed in by thin cotton and ragged history in northeastern Alabama, in a time when blacks and whites found reason to hate each other and a whole lot of people could not stand themselves."

Bragg, who was not too long ago embroiled in a scandal at the NYT newsroom - and subsequently quit - and according to wiki now teaches journalism, writes straight from the heart. Brutal but true. His writing is vivid, as he takes the reader all the way back to his childhood, to when he begins working for small newspapers, then regional ones and finally makes it to the NYTimes, where he writes stories such as that about Susan Smith, the South Carolina woman who killed her two sons by driving her car into a lake.

There is something about his story that moves me, maybe it's his passion for his work, for uncovering the hidden stories of the poor, the forgotten, the left behind. Maybe it's an admiration of his passion, which I know I'd never really have.

I'd been asked many times if I'd go back to writing. I usually try to worm my way out with a blah answer. The truth is, I love to write. It doesn't mean I do a good job at it. But I am too fond of words to ever give it up. But to go back to what I did last year... that would be impossible. People have suggested that I freelance. I greet that with a "yeah, I guess". But somehow, I just don't feel like I can deal with stories which make me wonder what the hell I'm wasting my time on.

There are good reporters, there are good writers and so far, from my backend experience, it is not often you get a good mix in one person. A lot of reporters are feted for their brilliance in chasing a story and chasing down the people and getting them to talk. I admire that. I could never do that. I am no reporter.

But I do like to write. I like to play with words. I like to have people read what I wrote. I suppose that's why I've kept this blog for five years now. I suppose that's why although I lost my way and gave up writing that I still work with words. I just polish them.

Do I ever want to go back into this? Maybe. Maybe years down the road I will realise it's what I've always wanted, it's what I went to school for, after all. It's just that right now, when I think of it, I just can't. I cannot imagine working for another ed, and another, and another, and then having the already pathetic story I wrote whittled down til it's just a sliver of a shadow of its former self.

So that's my answer. That's the truth.

1 comment:

Enid Coleslaw said...

Writing from the other side of the fence, my sympathies are oddly similar. I remember reading a few of your more disgruntled posts about your work, and can well imagine the drudgery of having to write to order. I'm an editor myself (of books....those who can't...), and got into the job because I have a great affection for the written word, but couldn't bear to foist my own mediocrity upon the world (or unsuspecting Singaporeans at leat).

What I found out is how much the book business is exactly that: a business. There isn't much care or thought given to the book or material that one is dealing with-many of the books I work on are commissioned/sponsored titles, where being on schedule basically means a lot of compromises, especially when it comes to the text. From what you've said in your blog, guess journalism isn't all that different either. I think a solution to this would be have a job which can support you and give you time to write as well (where does one find these things?), thereby keeping deadlines and the constraints of commerce at bay.