Thursday, November 5, 2015

The "Journalism Style" Talk - Mission Statement

I have been spending a lot of time on Facebook, but I still post things over here (and will be doing even more soon!). I'm going to start parking several posts about my writing and online work for reference. For example, when I am about to write something I plan to link back to many times, like the cussing talk.  I have recently responded to many remarks about my style and my approach. I'm going to explain myself one more time, and try to say it all in one place. Not just for the people who are new to my feed, but for myself.

Let this suffice as my future mission statement and an explanation for why I write the way that I do.

I'm direct. I don't apologize, and I'm not going to start. It's how I am in real life, and it's going to be how I am online as well. There are enough perky blond fluffballs and serious old white men telling the news in the same polished tone of voice. I'm over it. I'm going to say it in my voice, and those who don't like it can simply tune in to a channel they prefer. I don't feel that it's my job to make information palatable or comfortable, and I'm relieved at how many responded positively to this. We're adults. Let's just fish out the facts first, then decide how we feel about them. When I write about my feelings - and I will - I will write it separately and make a point to better separate the two. My Facebook is where I write my thoughts. My articles are where I publish my findings. Those two have mingled poorly in the past when I have written about my thoughts and it be confused with my factual writing. This is one of many things I have noted and will correct.

I am not going to sugarcoat or sell anyone on what I do. Those who like it have stuck around, those who do not have moved on, and that's how it should be. I'm really happy to see how many have stuck around. I sorely miss some of those who have left, but I respect their decision.

Unlike the people I have been writing about lately, I want to point out that I work completely in public view. I don't hide what I do, and you are here to see every triumph and every mistake. I'm not trying to toot my own horn, but this is the thing I am most proud of, for The Bon Project and for myself. It takes all the nerve I can muster to work in front of friends and readers I don't want to disappoint and critics I can never please all at the same time, and I've done okay so far. It has kept me honest and diligent and I like that. I believe in transparency, period.  I'm proactively living up to my ideals by putting my future career on the line. I walk an unconventional path and I wouldn't have it any other way. I've been rewarded with a lot of trust and love, and smacked with a lot of criticism. I've listened to both very carefully and I implement aspects of both. I do not chase approval, but I can tell when I've rightly been called out and I do my best to take that to heart.

The people who don't like my methods regarding GO:61 have to at least admit I have taken full responsibility of my every action, which is something they cannot say. I was bold, I asked questions, then I demanded answers when nothing added up. I don't feel it's my job to make them comfortable for failing to provide information they are legally obligated to provide or operate in such a way that their purpose and results are clear. Those who disagree have said their piece and were not censored. Unlike councilman Justin Burnett, I have left the entire record stand on my Facebook feed for public scrutiny. I have taken ownership of my words, and I stand behind every single one. When I made a statement I provided the evidence or full train of logic for comment. I did my homework, and thanks to tips and public support I got many leads to check out. That was a first for me, and it changed everything.

As I'm rather fond of pointing out, I'm an acquired taste. I'm not for everyone. However, I do promise to be myself at all times. I have been myself all along, as my friends can attest. My rage is real, when I'm angry. My sadness is deeply felt, when I write about some of the things we want to pretend don't exist. My happiness is genuine when I get to report something that tells us the world is doing something right. I do not get paid for my coverage of local events. I pay out of pocket for all of my costs, including upcoming Sunshine Law requests. If I ever write for conventional press, my editor will have a lot of say in what I write and how. This may be the only time I may ever truly own my voice. I'm going to use it for the ideals I support, and I'm not going to try to sound like everyone else. I'm going to write millions of words in my life. I want to come back to here and remember these days, when I worked full-time and was in school, not sleeping because there was one more thing to look up. This was when I fell in love with what I do and decided to go about it my own way. The flirtation became the lifelong commitment. Journalism, I love you, even when you're an asshole or make me get up before sunrise on my day off.

On a serious note, I'm not going to always write what people want to hear. Or get to write what I want to say. Sometimes I have to write the truth even when it sucks, and the work isn't very fun. But I get so many messages from people saying thank you for researching an issue, or for giving them the words they wanted to frame their own thoughts, that makes it worth it every time. I keep them all, and when I need to read some comfort I bring out the praise. When I worry I may be going down a path I don't like, I read my criticism and remember how the people who don't appreciate my particular style view me. It helps me be aware of what I can do better, and I feel like I can focus more on getting it right.

I've learned SO MUCH during this process. I had a lot of help and folks who helped me think things through, and this has given me insight I can use for the rest of my life. No classroom could prepare a person for the things I've seen.  One story at a time, I am going to find issues that matter, that affect people, and I am going to stick with it until it's done. I enjoy the narrow focus that lets me really work best. Even if there is no conclusion to be made, I will at least fully prepare and publish my work and have thoroughly checked it out. That's my mission. When there is an issue that nobody else will cover or want to dive into, let that be my groundwork. Let me learn from these so I can complete my education and do a good job going forward. When this wraps up and I take on my next project, I have a long list of things to do to help me do this better. If I had to boil this down to one lesson, I'll say this experience has taught me to ask every single question no matter how simple it might seem.

The thing that makes me the person I am has to add a few conditions. God help the person I catch harming another, because I will not hold back. I will have no mercy for the cruel or the people who take advantage of the helpless or the gullible. I will look down every path, even when I don't want to, and record my findings objectively and thoroughly. Then I will ponder what I find. Then I'm going to say what I think about it, evenif I don't like where the investigation has taken me, and whatever heat I take is not going to stop me. I will do all of those things every single time. Those who choose to disagree with my analysis are welcome to do so, but I hope my fact finding and sharing of resources also shows my dedication by letting people look at my work and grade it. Whatever path this takes me down, I will go gratefully and happily.

If you can take an occasional jag of cat pictures and an occasional (and by occasional I mean frequent) F bombs, I hope we can have a good time here on social media while I write what I feel compelled to say. But if you can't, I understand, and I wish you well on your journey.