I was two years younger than I am now when I took a class at the University of Houston where the professor was discussing how reporters often feel when their editors rewrite their stories.
At the time, I didn’t think much about why an entire lecture had been dedicated to talking about editors reworking a reporter’s words. I took the class for granted.
The professor, David McHam, told us that we should not let the editors’ changes affect our self-esteem, our mood or our next stories.
Our editor probably knows more about the issues than we do. We should trust their judgement.
I believe this to an extent.
If a story is changed to the point where the message is affected, I’d say that is definitely a problem.
As a reporter, I have a responsibility not only to my sources, but to the community to report the facts that I have gathered.
I also have the responsibility to properly convey messages and stories people tell me.
If an edit is made in my article that changes that message or story, this will directly affect my relationship with my source and the community. My name appears on the article. It’s my byline.
I do trust my editor’s judgement.
But I also believe that a reporter and an editor should have a great relationship, so that articles accurately convey the correct message and stories given by sources and the community.
You can’t make people happy all the time, but you can try your best to report the facts accurately. Reporters and editors should work together to make sure that the correct message is being conveyed in the story that’s being told.
When edits are made at the Garden Island, it’s not policy to tell the reporters.
When Chelsea Lyons Kent told me why she flipped off the camera at the DNC, most of the interview didn’t make it in the final version. Instead, TGI ran an editorial blasting her for whatever reason—I didn’t read it. I have an audio tape of our interview, though.
When Justin Kollar’s plea deals were being criticized by the community, by his opponent and by a councilmember, I talked to experts to paint a clearer picture on the topic. Mainly because I wanted to better understand the process and I believed that a lot of the community also didn’t understand the process. When the story ran, it became an endorsement piece for the prosecutor’s office. And during an election year to boot.
So maybe a judge denied a warrant against police officers telling them not to do a blood draw on a guy in a car accident where a woman had died. They did it anyways. When the story ran, the officers’ names were removed, the article was censored and nothing in it was as it was from the beginning. Now the AGs are investigating and the pros said no thanks. Yet, that’s not a story that we’d run because it would be censored again.
Speaking of being censored, god forbid I run anything negative against the pros office. #JustSaying
I have many examples on being rewritten.
By the way, David McHam was a wonderful professor. Just brilliant. Before I moved to Kauai, I sat down with him in a little café called Dry Creek in the Heights and we had lunch.
He always believed in me and honestly, I feel I have let him down in more ways than one. I haven’t called him in almost a year.
I try to keep in touch with my professors and former editors, but since moving to Kauai, I just don’t want to. Yes, I was that dork who was friends with all my professors in college. Every single one of those people have so much knowledge to share and I want to consume it.
Anyways, still chugging. At least McHam’s class prepared me, slightly, for this.