One journalist's musings about the beautiful, bizarre world in which we live
This is the coursework I had to hand in at the end of things in order to get a passing grade. Hopefully.
Note: I cut some of the assignment out of this post. One fellow told me very personal things, and I don’t feel it fair that I show his stories to the world without his consent.
WHAT I LEARNED — OCT. 12, 2010
I am going to steal from Socrates and say that journalistically speaking, this course really taught me that I know nothing.
Cliché? Probably. Sorry. But let me run with it.
Yes, I did learn a bit about the history of Afghanistan, and I finagled Final Cut Pro in order to help with some VO/SOTs. I was lectured about ranks in the military, and I got people to help me with a bit of Pashto, tashakur.
But as far as journalism goes, I felt I was smacked across the face and told, “You really have no idea, do you?”
Living in the rural Albertan bubble over the past year and a half, I forgot to pay attention to what was going on elsewhere. I stopped thinking about things that were not bake sales, high school concerts and town council meetings. I became a bit arrogant, being one of the only people in town with expert knowledge related to these things and one of the few with journalistic training.
For the course, I prepared for an immense intake of information, but I did not expect to be taken aback.
As I was when I spoke to Afghan natives in villages.
I learned about their lives before moving to Canada. I found out how difficult simply existing could be, especially for women. I spent a bit of time in “Nakhonay” in tea huts and houses with “local” women talking about the decor in Afghanistan. About being a workingwoman. About dealing with the death of their patriarch.
Again, I was left stunned when I spent time with soldiers — our drivers, namely.
I listened to stories. I heard about how one driver was sent home because of a torn ligament in his ankle. Within a week, our driver’s regular vehicle hit a roadside bomb, killing one of his good friends. As I recently wrote here in Athabasca, I also chatted with a member of the Canadian Forces who just asked for truth in reporting:
“These are my boys,” he repeated several times when we spoke. “My boys.”
Notably, I was dumbfounded while watching and emulating fellow journalists at work.
I watched people like Teri, asking the right questions to get responses worded in certain ways. I spied on the viewfinder as Chad set the white balance and framed the shots. I begged Faiz for help with my voice on a couple of occasions. Also, Mike, Aniceto and Josh were critical of my work, and I loved it. When I know there is room to improve, I try to be creative.
But still, despite all the “learning,” I came out of Wainwright feeling less intelligent than when I went in. I felt I never reached perfection in the newspaper or in broadcast. My world was turned upside-down with regards to the military. I now have more questions than ever about Afghanistan.
I know I will never know everything. I will never have every bit of knowledge that the perfect world would give the perfect journalist to write the perfect articles. I will need to smile, cry, fight, seduce and hunt for the information needed to string up a measly 100-word brief or snatch a couple of pictures on the sly.
Through this course, I remembered that. I also realized that I need to keep my eyes open to not only my immediate surroundings, but also to the events occurring beyond my sight.
And, I learned how difficult good journalism is. Difficult, indeed — but important.