The post I was hoping to have up this weekend is running a bit long. I hope to have it up for next time.
To tide you over, here’s another post from that “other blog” that I had. The only changes I made were to remove the names of people and places, with one exception, since I’m not even sure if that’s his real name.
Sep 19, 2008
When I was a freshman in high school, I joined the school newspaper, a job I loved so much as to only do it that one year. Still, the first article that I wrote for the paper–which I don’t own a copy of, and was more of a rant than a productive piece of journalism–taught me an important lesson.
The “article” dealt with the issue of bus drivers’ children riding on the bus with their parents. I thought this practice was dangerous because the kids were a distraction to the drivers. I’m not sure if I believed the danger was as real as I made it seem in the article, and I may have ranted about a few other things as well. Well-researched journalism it was not. Who knew that my perfect format–the blog–would not be invented until later?
Getting back to the article, it’s the only one that I wrote, and the only one of two things of mine that were published in high school, that caused a stir. Soon after the article came out (maybe even the day it came out), I was told to go see Mr. M, the Housemaster of House A. He told me that the person in charge of the bus company, whose name I can’t remember (Mr. Thrall, perhaps?), wanted me to call him about the article I had written. I didn’t get the sense that I was in trouble (because I wasn’t–yay, First Amendment!), but when Mr. M told me this, I realized something profound: people actually had read what I had written! Even more, they took my writing seriously!
Well, that’s what I thought. Until I called Mr. Thrall (or whatever his name was) and found out that he hadn’t read the article. But, someone who had read it had told him about it. Then, he asked me to tell him what was in the article. Now, if I’ve just written something, I can tell people the gyst of what I have written, but I hadn’t just written this article, and I didn’t have it in front of me. So, I hemmed and hawed, with a lot of “I think’s” and “like’s,” about my view about bus drivers’ children riding with their parents. Except that I softened the criticism. A lot. I tend to be more courageous when the object of my pen’s wrath is not talking to me on the phone.
Then Mr. Thrall explained to me the idea that if their own children were on the bus, bus drivers were more likely to drive safely. I probably answered with some “I see’s” and “uh-huh’s” before hanging up, my heart still racing in my chest.
That day, though, I learned two important life lessons. 1.) People do read what you write in public, so you better do your research (even in a rant). And 2.) what you write can provoke powerful reactions to it. Mr. Thrall hadn’t even read the article, yet he had swooped in to defend his position. He hadn’t been mean about it (in fact, he was very pleasant on the phone), but the fact is, he didn’t have to respond to it at all. I mean, I was a freshman in high school just ranting about things I didn’t like. If he had read the article, maybe he wouldn’t have felt the phone call necessary. But he didn’t. All he knew was that there was an article in the paper that criticized a decision he had made, and that carried so much weight with him that he had contacted Mr. M and had passed along a message to me to call him about it to set the record straight. I don’t know if he expected me to publish his views on the subject or not (probably not, since he didn’t treat the phone call as an interview). Still, it showed me how much power the press can have, and why it should be used responsibly. And, it proved that the people who tend to have the most problems with certain books and articles are the ones who haven’t read them.