Monday, October 1, 2012
Writing is Great, Newspaper Writing is Better
This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, October 1, 2012
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
I have a confession to make. I like to write. Please try to contain your shock and astonishment.
These days, a lot of people write. It seems nearly everyone has a blog where they express their feelings and speak to those they know as well as those they don’t. The styles vary, the formats are different, but getting your thoughts out to the world seems every bit as important today as it has always been.
But I like the actual printed word. I enjoy seeing the phrases I have arranged shown in ink (or whatever it is that passes for ink these days) and on paper. Of course, I particularly like seeing them in this newspaper – and my editors did not make me say that. I guess at heart I’m just a newspaper kind of guy, though I fully admit to being a slave to my computers and smartphone too.
But writing for and in a newspaper is still special to me. Somehow it seems more substantive, though statistics may show those who paint on the internet canvas receive a wider audience. And in fact, most papers including the Sun Chronicle are online these days as well. It’s a sign of the times.
I maintain writing for newspaper is an art in and of itself. It is writing at its technical best. It is not as sophisticated as penning poetry, or as prestigious as creating the next great American novel. But filling the pages of a daily newspaper requires great writers who seldom get recognized for their work. Most don’t make a lot of money, don’t become famous or terribly popular, and aren’t always the first ones invited to the big social events. They just do their jobs and enjoy the results.
Writing in a newspaper has a certain rhythm, a feel that is both a personal and a collaborative effort. Whether a beat reporter or a columnist, you always understand your job is to produce something worthy of your profession and your paper.
Of course, there are differences in the individual responsibilities. A reporter has the unenviable job of giving people an objective view on things that have for the most part already occurred. They often toil in relative obscurity. If they do their work exceptionally well, most people who read their stuff will not even remember their names. They are seekers of truth, and get lied to and misdirected regularly.
Columnists are a more narcissistic bunch. By the very nature of their job they are more visible to the reading public. They must have opinions and express them in a way that will get people to read. Whether they are liked or not is pretty much irrelevant. They put themselves out there. They have less of a burden than reporters when it comes to presenting facts and being objective.
All of which explains why I enjoy writing a couple of times each week in this fine publication. While all columnists who work for reputable newspapers must remain within the bounds of reason and good taste, it provides a freedom of expression that is different from all others. You get to reason, to express yourself, to engage your audience in conversation. And believe me, they do talk back.
While I can’t speak for all columnists, I can report this one relies heavily on the fine work of reporters just to be able to do my job. Reading the crisp and informative writings of good scribes is one way I gather information and form my own positions. They do the hard stuff, and I often get to enjoy the fruits of their labors. I thank them for doing their job so well and making mine so easy.
Writing a regular newspaper column is a personal thing. It produces a tangible result which can be judged on its merits each and every time. And no one is a tougher sell on its worthiness than the writer. Each week brings a new challenge, and meeting each challenge is both exciting and satisfying.
I enjoy sitting down, feeling the pages of a newspaper between my fingers, and reading what I have written. It is a satisfying experience – and a lot cheaper than a psychiatrist.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.