“Newsworthy”: to be or not to be

I’ve been suffering through an identity crisis of sorts for a while about journalism. I’ll be honest.

I will not go into detail about the reasons except for one. That reason is the constant battle I have with determining whether or not something is “newsworthy.” 

I think about things in very strange ways and I come up with grandiose, big ideas. I want to write about huge concepts, like humanity and love and life and depression and sorrow. On the other hand, it’s hard for me to come up with the ground-level immediate stories that I am so frequently encouraged to find. 

I realize that this is an issue. I realize that my conceptual brain and my constant mental refabrication of every idea Terrence Malick has probably already thought of. But I can’t stop thinking that way. I’ve tried to think more concisely and in more solid terms — but even when I think up more basic and tangible ideas, they don’t give me any satisfaction.

I’ve talked to people about interviewing and one of the common responses that I’ve seen interviewees have when they’re approached is, “Why would you talk to me? I’m so boring.” 

But do we really expect any other response? The media perpetuates the concept that only blood, drama and “uniqueness” (whatever that means now) can make a headline. Of course people think they’re boring. I hate having to describe to strangers why I’m talking to them not only because I see that people really do think they’re boring but also because I hate how “average” stories are considered to be less valuable than “relevant” or “immediate” or “current” or “timely” stories. Perhaps dubbing one story “timely” and another story “untimely” (or, in other words, not important enough) is an overestimation of the journalist’s responsibility anyway. Do we really think we are so all-knowing that we can determine that one person (or one event) is more important than another?

I don’t think so.

I even heard the other day people talking about people and their stories. One person said the same thing that I say: how everyone they’ve met is interesting and how they tell their sources that. But then the second person said, “Well, everyone has an interesting story. Some are just more interesting than others.”

That’s something fundamental about journalism that I just can’t get behind. And maybe that’s the source of one of the frustrations I’ve been having.

I will continue to explain to people that I have never met an uninteresting person (it’s true). Sometimes I go into interviews for some specific purpose but I’ll end up talking to them for three hours just because I’m interested in what they say and how they act and how they’re interacting with me and my questions. I test people with personal questions; I pull back to respect their boundaries. I laugh with them and tell them I understand how weird an interview is because it’s weird and at certain points I can’t be anything but transparent. Yes, I will drink beer with them. Yes, if they ask me to withhold something (for a verifiable and understandable reason), I’ll probably do it. 

I’m a person and the people I interview are people too. 

And if journalists are the ultimate purveyor of humanity, I think we need to escape the veil of newsworthiness and tell those stories that may not be “relevant.” Every interview I’ve had has showed me that everyone has some little interesting thing about them, and I want to be the person to talk about that interesting thing. 

People think journalists “use” them and they’re right to think so. Journalists do “use” people to their advantage. They have a “newsworthy” story and they call the right people and get quotes and write the “newsworthy” story afterward and turn it in and never look back. Nobody’s entirely happy in that situation.

I’ve brought up ideas for stories but they’ve been shot down because they’re not timely enough or newsworthy. But they’re newsworthy to me. And they should be newsworthy to everyone else, including people in a newsroom. 

What comes first to my mind when I try to defend myself and defend my broad and vague “mist

There’s a quote that is often used to describe the “man bites dog” concept in journalism: the concept that news will cover a man biting a dog because it’s unique but will never cover a dog biting a man because it’s average and run-of-the-mill. It’s a great concept because it’s true. I feel like journalism sometimes falls into its out self-dug pit when it either sensationalizes some oddball story, exaggerates another and ignores another.

Anyway, the quote is, “You never read about a plane that did not crash.”

I guess I want to write about that plane. I want to write about people who are “boring” and who aren’t “newsworthy” and who really are just…people.

Is that wrong?

The online life and how I want to change

I’ve been frustrated with social media for a while. Well, really, I’ve been frustrated with social media from the beginning. But now that I think about it, I can’t even remember when my life started to be systematically controlled by social media. I had a Myspace in middle school? I think middle school? And it’s been a long, dark path ever since.

But Abigail, don’t be negative! Social media is great! It connects us to people we otherwise wouldn’t be able to contact! You would be left out of the loop if you leave! What else would you do with your time? You’re so vain for wanting to opt out!

Yes, internet stranger, you’re right. Maybe I am stupid for wanting to opt out. Maybe I’m vain for thinking I’m self-confident and forthcoming enough to “not need” social networking.

I get why people get weird when others drop out of the social network sphere. My roommate said she thinks it’s weird when a guy doesn’t have a Facebook (Maybe he’s a player! Maybe he’s a serial killer! Maybe he’s a fugitive!) My friend Allie responded when I told her I wanted to avoid social networking, “No, you won’t.”

Honestly, it’s true. I’m not about to go cold turkey and delete my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and everything else. But I want to clean up my social presence. That doesn’t mean that I have some compromising photos of me downing alcohol from shot luges or anything like that, but I just want to make my time online more efficient and valuable. I can’t say that I will give up completely on social networking because it really is important for things like events and people who live in other places who I only talk to online.

But I’m tired of using these same excuses over and over again to myself and to others. Yes, I use Facebook for events and yes, I use Facebook to talk to people who live far away. But let’s be honest. Most of the time we spend online on Facebook or Buzzfeed or Gawker doesn’t contribute very much to our greater selves and even to our daily selves. Being online has become less of a relaxation tool and more of a chore — and a self-conscious chore at that.

Maybe not everyone’s the same way. Maybe they are. But I have become more and more self-aware, self-conscious and negative online. I think social networking is important but I’ve come to the point where I’m no longer enjoying being online. I’m exhausted from checking all these websites and not feeling like I’ve received any personal benefit. I know that’s selfish.

Today I came across a little piece Nate Thayer wrote about the whole social networking thing: “Social Media Frightens Me: The Thoughtful Confessions of a Confirmed Skeptic”. Here’s a section:

“I find no intellectual satisfaction or entertainment with accepting a limit of 140 characters to express myself. Nor have I identified a potential, while restricted by those parameters, for engaging in meaningful conversation or dialogue. Even more profound, I find it impossible to identify under such rules of engagement, if those I attempt to engage are worthy of my effort or time. It is too often a reckless gamble with the odds unworthy of purchasing the irredeemable chips required to gain entrance to that casino.

Much of the time it seems the simple silent presence of another human, only the soothing sound of their breathing and not uttering a word, would be more satisfying than the faceless, soulless millions who, simultaneously both non-verbal and recklessly communicating, are always available and sometimes desperate.”

The internet is a sad, lonely place. But I know that it’s not all doom and gloom, and I want to transform my negative perspective to a positive one. I recently bought a camera after my long-time DSLR broke a while ago, and I wanted to use this camera as a documentation of my life instead of Facebook. I’ll still get online occasionally on Facebook, but I’m really only going to post the photos I take in my life. I also want to include everyone I photograph, so that’s why I’m not totally going off into the deep end of non-internet life. And besides, I can’t really give up the internet with what I’m doing career-wise.

I’m also going to make a blog/website where I post my photos and reflect on them (maybe). I want it to be a space where I can focus my energy and my life. To be continued.