The truth isn’t fake

The truth isn’t fake
                        

When I was younger, I wanted to be a journalist. I had my New York apartment arranged in my mind’s eye: thick rugs, snug couches and a window that looked out onto the world. A typewriter would be on the table with soft stacks of paper at the ready.

The need to tell a story, beating the hard concrete with my winter boots, getting that detail that tipped the story into its zenith — that’s what beckoned me. I was fascinated with news, following politics and the latest stories by reading newspapers delivered to our front door.

There was no cable TV in our area at that time, so the evening news was all I could follow. It seemed to be enough.

Telling a story requires many things, but it mostly requires this: facts, the determination to uncover them and the resources (and sources) to validate them. Journalists work hard at these things, to bring us the news as it happens and to weave a tale that makes you want to keep reading: clean, concise and full of credibility.

My dream of journalism must have been folded into a cookie dough batter somewhere around my senior year when I realized I couldn’t stand the thought of heading to college for more schooling.

My senior humanities teacher told me I should go, that my skill set needed to be used to its fullest. But I was stubborn, not listening to reason, and graduated and went on to slip into what would be the first half of my life’s work: husband, kids and home.

It wasn’t 20 years later I realized the need to write would never die, and when I had the opportunity to be an opinion columnist, I was thrilled. An opinion columnist is not a journalist.

I still check my facts if it pertains to a place or thing, but because most of my columns come from inside me — my memories, things I’ve done, places I’ve been — the only fact-checker I need is myself.

I don’t make things up but have been known to make it spicier by adding visual verbiage. It’s integral to telling a story, a weaving of facts with words that keep the reader pushing forward.

The same can be said with journalism. You take a story, investigate it, corroborate it and put it out there for the public to consume. Journalism is telling the stories of the world as they happen or digging deeper into a thing to bring something into view.

A lot of times the people involved in a big story don’t like that they’re being uncovered, written about and exposed.

It would be easy, if you’ll indulge me, for someone that doesn’t like me or my style of writing to sway people against me. This could be done by writing a letter to the editor or by sharing my columns online and posting things about me they don’t like.

People have every right not to like me or my writing style. What they don’t have a right to do is say I’m writing untruths, threaten me or spread lies to make people not believe in me.

You know how that little game “rumor” goes? Whisper something into someone’s ear, and by the time it comes back around to you, it’s nothing at all what you said. It only takes a whisper through many ears to make people believe a dodging of facts, to sway the truth of a thing for your own benefit.

The saddest thing that could happen to journalists — and for journalism — is for people to believe they’re the enemy. My advice? Don’t do something you need to keep quiet because a good journalist will track down the facts, and facts don’t lie. No one gets to choose what’s true and factual because they don’t like the story being told.

Maybe it’s not too late to go to school to be a journalist. I hear they’re needed now more than ever.


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