Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Memories of a newspaper staff writer and why I learned to bite


You know the saying, her bark was worse than her bite? Well let me tell you something. When I started writing for my student newspaper's Arts & Entertainment section, I was eager to jump in head first. The only problem was that the ideas I was pitching either weren't accepted by my editor or once I'd finished writing them, they got rejected for the print version. I was like a little yapping dog who wanted to play, but no one would take me seriously.

Don't get me wrong, a few of them did finally make it to print, and I did understand that the A&E section had a huge space issue. Most of it usually went to the "hardcore" news, not so much what movies people were watching that weekend. But when I started to analyze the pieces that were making it into the paper, I realized that most of them were written by a select handful of writers who had more...bite... than I did.

What I mean by that is they had this sort of sharp wit and sarcasm that I felt that I was lacking. They didn't simply recap or praise the student production of Hair, they tore into it! They threw in every zinger they had in them, even if it meant actually insulting people from time to time.

I started to wonder, if I'm going to get myself noticed around here...do I need to start biting?

Soon after I pondered this, I was asked to recap the VMAs. That was the year that Britney Spears had her "comeback" and Russell Brand made his debut in America. I remember thinking, how am I going to set my voice apart? As a result, the piece I ended up with was little more than a string of insults that I felt were witty and clever enough, but I didn't actually mean.

In truth, I felt a little guilty about some of the things I was saying. Sure, they're celebrities and they've seen their fair share of criticism. But to me, it was about more than that. It wasn't me. I'm really not the sort of person to put others down, and my preference will always be to praise rather than ridicule. Even if that does mean a slightly less interesting news article.

The funny thing is that my "zinger" wasn't even published in the print version and shortly after that, I did get a few of my pieces in -- ones that weren't laden with unnecessary criticism!

In the end, I learned that some dogs aren't meant to bite. Some are just meant to curl up on the couch and cuddle with you...and tell you you're awesome. Because you are.