I covered a meeting this week where at least two people publicly mentioned my work.
It’s nice to know people read your stuff, but it’s always a little awkward when you’re mentioned out loud. We reporters try to stay off to the side and observe things, not be a part of things.
But what was even more awkward was that twice my work was referred to as “columns.”
Nothing makes a news reporter cringe more than when readers think you write columns.
For the record, I write news articles. My articles contain facts. They do contain opinions — other people’s opinions. But not my opinions.
If I’m doing my job well, you shouldn’t be able to tell what I think about the topic, other than I think it’s important for people to know about it.
I try to cover all the angles to a story and let people on different sides of an issue weigh in.
For example, this is why an article I wrote over the weekend about Magothy River Day included quotes from people who want the river’s Dobbins Island beach to be open to the public, as well as quotes from the island owner who wants to build a private home. Nowhere in there is any indication about what I think about what should happen to the island.
This is not meant to bash columns. A well-written column shares an opinion, but it also is full of facts. The best columnists research their columns as well as a reporter researches an article, often by conducting interviews, attending meetings and reviewing public documents. My colleague Eric Hartley does a great job of this.
But when you read Eric or other columnists, understand that their aim is to make a point, and maybe get you to come on board with their opinion. My aim is to simply share important information and let you decide what to think about it.
I’m inspired in my work by a comment from the late Katharine Graham from The Washington Post. When I was a student reporter for The Diamondback at the University of Maryland, I covered the grand opening of a Post printing plant in College Park.
More than anything else, I remember Ms. Graham saying this: “Newspapers give people the information they need to make democracy work.”
That’s what I do in my articles. I give you information.