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Consider your audience before even picking up a pen. Before you start interviewing a source for an article, consider the audience to whom you’re writing.
I have spent about three years now writing articles for school and local newspapers. I helped produce Northridge High School’s annual yearbook. Since I was 16 years old, I have been writing articles, term papers and more for others to read. Yet it wasn’t until this 2008 fall semester that I really considered how my audience would be affected by my work.
Last year I heard about a girl who went through difficult trials, and after years of raising her family when her father died and mother left, she was able to return to school and finish her education.
Her story was amazing and I was excited to write an article about her experience acting as a surrogate mother for her siblings. When I called her up, she plainly stated she didn’t want her story broadcast where others could read.
I talked to her a few more times and managed to convince her to grant me an interview and write a story. She gave me hundreds of details, including information about watching her father die, staying up late to grocery shop, how she taught her brothers how to drive and about going to parent/teacher conference meetings.
When I was looking over my notes, I decided that the story of how she held her dying father’s hand was a perfect lead. Considering it now, I wish I could take it back. Although the girl was happy with the story, leading with the trauma that experience left her with was not my most intelligent idea.
Despite the years that have passed, she probably still remembers watching that happen and feels the pain.
This semester in class, we have given a lot of consideration to how the audience will feel about the article we are writing. We focused on writing articles about Native Americans this semester, learning about their culture, lifestyle, work ethics and many more issues. We have also considered how other writers’ articles may have affected the people involved.
Although it is important to report the news, it is equally important to consider how the person/people we are writing about will feel. News should be accessible to the public but that is no reason to put every horrifying experience of someone’s life in an article.
An important issue can still be reported, but in a tasteful manner.
I am a senior history and mass communication major at the University of Utah and the assistant news editor at the U’s school newspaper, The Daily Utah Chronicle.
I arrived at the U in 2005 with a plethora of history books and dreams of teaching history at a college level. When I started writing for the Chronicle, however, I slowly became hooked into the world of writing.
Three years since that fateful starting point, I have completed internships at the Standard Examiner and dream to be a science reporter. I love to gather interviews and rearrange my words in a unique and catchy lead. Watching the average person discuss my articles and knowing that I have impacted even one person, is one of the greatest joys, and one I hope to continue to experience.