Army of Mom

So this is how liberty dies ... with thunderous applause.


Opinion versus fact

A couple of weeks ago, I was working on a story for a national homeland security publication and found it next to impossible to get our elected officials as well as the staff of the Department of Homeland Security to even bother calling me back. That was very disheartening.

But, what I found to be even more troubling was the editor of the publication. My task was to write a story addressing the shortage of first responders - cops, EMTs and firefighters - across the country and how this impacts national security, especially homeland security. He wanted me to address how the call-ups of reserves and national guardsmen depleted our first responders.

As I researched and called sources, what I found was that the call-ups had very little - if any - impact on the numbers of first responders. What I found was that most of these men and women were leaving the uniforms behind for better paying positions with less danger involved. So, I wrote my story.

The editor wasn't happy with it. Told me to rework it, get more facts and information. I called around. Still no elected officials (or their staffers) and the DHS folks returned my calls. I tracked down some GAO information and updated the story.

Still, he wasn't happy. He berated me in an email and told me he had to rewrite the whole thing and attached a copy of the story.

I was feeling pretty crappy and thinking that maybe I wasn't cut out for these kinds of big stories and wondering about my writing and research skills. That is - until I read his copy.

Lo and behold, he didn't care what the facts were. He rewrote the piece to support his theory that the war was depleting our first responders by removing them from protecting the country and sending them overseas. Never mind that a NYPD official said that wasn't the case. Never mind that many firefighter organizations and lobbyists said that wasn't the case. Who cares that the largest police union didn't think that was an issue. That was the editor's opinion and, by God, that is going to be the angle of the story REGARDLESS of the facts and statistics.

I read his rewrites with my jaw hanging open. He had written the story more as an editorial than a news/feature piece and injected his own analysis into it as if he were one of the experts. Now, he may know more about the topic than I do, but I would NEVER throw my opinion into a story. That isn't my job. My job is to write a fair and balanced piece based on the facts I uncover. That isn't what this story is. I really hope he doesn't give me a byline.

Suffice it to say that my faith in my writing and reporting skills wasn't quite so low after that. I just can't write that way and if that is what he is looking for, that simply isn't me. I did go meet with an officials from the "big " airport and I may be writing a book for them on one of the airport's latest projects, so that is exciting and hopefully lucrative. I'm guessing my writing must not be too bad.


  • At 9:50 AM, May 16, 2006, Blogger Army of Mom said…

    I wouldn't have thought the guy was a lefty. Thing is, I actually have written several other stories for him in the past without any problems. He loved them being straight news. I guess his meaning of "feature" is different than my meaning of a feature story.

    It is just disappointing and reinforces the views of many news consumers that the media can't be neutral on a subject.

  • At 7:39 AM, May 17, 2006, Blogger MrsDoF said…

    Yet another example of your good sense and talent.

    This is why I had so much trouble writing papers for my Composition classes. I was a writer for my high school newspaper, and did pretty well bringing in the facts.
    This last year while in college, the Instructor kept telling me to write my Argument, to defend my position about the source and quote.
    It doesn't come naturally to me, and I know opinions should be on a special page in a newspaper.

  • At 5:03 PM, May 22, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Good for you for not writing what he wanted and instead actually doing some fact finding. When I come across a story in our newspaper that is more editorial than news, I want to scream. We need more people like YOU!!!
    ~PB Ray


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