Those Who Can Do, Those Who Can't CriticizeTuesday, April 24, 2012 By Katie Byrd
Wanted: Newspaper staff members. Must be on call during school hours, afternoons, evenings, nights, and weekends. Required to: publish one article a week, learn Adobe InDesign, edit other’s articles, understand typography humor, and recognize vocabulary words including but not limited to pica, serif, lede, feature, truck, flag, stroke, and inverted pyramid. Will receive no payment but have the pleasure of seeing writing published. Will also see writing used as: scratch paper, confetti, air planes, table liners, kindling, coloring pages, and spit balls. Writers can expect to receive little to no praise for their work, though students and teachers will frequently point out any spelling or grammatical errors. After all, errors are most important. I’ve always a bad habit of sitting in the back of the room making snide remarks and mocking people. I was that person. But working on the newspaper has given me a greater appreciation of the work done by others. As the newspaper editor, it is my job to work with new students teaching the skills needed to write for a newspaper. Newswriting is a style entirely different from academic writing, interviews are nerve-wracking, and let’s not even get started on the stress of deadlines. Every time I read the first draft of an article and want to cross everything out and make a harsh criticism, I remember all of the work someone put into writing it. Even articles written at the last minute show that someone cared enough to sit down and vomit a hundred words onto the paper, and that counts for something. Publishing the newspaper is one of the most difficult challenges I’ve faced in high school, and I know several students who would agree. I have stayed at school past seven working on newspaper layout. I’ve come in at eight in the morning on a Saturday to continue working. I’ve continued talking to staff members after meetings over text and Facebook until midnight to plan news stories and layout. I probably sound like I’m whining or dramatizing. But here’s my secret—it’s all true and a part of me loved every minute of it. After all, I knew it would be worth it to see our beautiful twelve page tabloid paper. As stressful as it is, it’s worth it to have that ownership and see our paper read by the students. It’s even better when I overhear people discussing an article in the hallways. In Mr. Jonesinski’s philosophy class, we learned about moral dilemmas. The example he used to explain the concept was this: Imagine a train is speeding down train tracks at one hundred miles an hour. If it continues on its path, it will enter a tunnel and kill five people. You are standing next to the track switch. You have the power to divert the train into a second tunnel where only one person would be killed. Would be responsible for killing one person if it meant five people would be saved? This is the dilemma Mrs. Taylor and I face as we decide to publish the newspaper. We could spend a year fine-tuning layout and revising articles, but then nothing would ever be finished. At some point, we have to weigh the risk of errors with our desire to publish. When the ratio of errors to impatience is low enough, we take that chance. As journalists and as human beings, we must recognize that it is easier for others to judge those who take risks than to encourage them. Believe me, no one’s writing, painting, performing, programming, teaching, speaking—no one’s anything will ever be perfect on every single attempt. If you aren’t failing, you aren’t risking anything.