Why I Want to be a Journalist (NY Times Week in Review story)

November 14, 2010 § 1 Comment

This post was inspired by this story in The New York Times, which covers the story behind Sgt. Salvatore Guinta (photo center) being the first person to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor while still living since Vietnam.

Image from NYTimes story. Lynsey Addario/VII

There are plenty of reasons to become a journalist. We love to romanticize our profession — if we may even call it that — with dreams of exposing corruption or telling the story of the underdog. I won’t lie, I would love to break the next Watergate, and I’d love to write a great feature (as of now, I hate writing features, but I know I’ll get over that and want this someday) on how so-and-so overcame such-and-such to achieve such-and-such. But really, what I hope to get out of it is even more abstract. I don’t live to expose corruption, I don’t look into every success for a triumph over adversity. I just live and just look.

As I finished high school, I received a note from my English teacher in response to the (dark) 10-page memoir I passed in to her. On it, she asked that I “use that vision and sadness, when it comes, for a purpose. Tell the truth. Write it down.” As I weaved through the beginnings of college trying to sort everything out, I came to the conclusion that there was really only one day I could live with myself as a writer (though some novelists are amazingly good at inspiring the masses and bringing about change or exposing wrongs, I don’t fool myself with the idea that I’m so capable) was to show people the world. Why invent sadness when there is so much real, full feeling in the world already.

I became a journalist so I could do what that teacher said to me. I want to find moments, feelings, people, and places that people don’t see and then show them. It’s a large task, and I’m bound to experience failures of all sorts as I try to complete it, but if anything has ever been worth a shot, it’s this.

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