Thursday, September 21, 2006

Why I Don't Work For CNN

by Kristine Coblitz

When I registered for college, I was under the delusion that I could make a living as a writer, so I enrolled as an English major. Not long after my freshman year, I realized that literature courses weren’t going to pay my rapidly growing student loan, so I switched my major to Journalism and Communications. I could write and get paid a modest salary. A perfect fit!

I became a news junkie, and my articles tackled real issues, but I hated interviewing. My professor forced me to talk to complete strangers on the streets of Pittsburgh. Talk about humiliation. Perhaps that’s why I edit a technical journal and live vicariously through my fictional characters who work as journalists. It’s a lot safer behind the scenes.

Earlier this year, however, I put my toes back into the pool by writing about literacy and education for a local magazine targeted to parents and children. It’s reporting, of course, but the most controversial topic I’ve written about is how academic tryouts affect a child’s self esteem. No sweat, right?

Wrong.

I’ve been branded as a member of “the press.” While writing an article on senior citizens and volunteering, I had a woman hang up on me after I asked to use her name. People have refused to answer my calls. People have lied to me.

The most memorable experience happened when I interviewed a group of local kids about teachers. The adult in charge was extremely hesitant about letting a blood-sucking reporter near the children. After finally gaining her trust and a successful meeting with the kids, the leader e-mailed me with a link to her blog because she was interested in chatting about writing. Her blog was well written and reflected themes of religion and charity work. Without thinking, I sent her a link to my blog in return.

I never heard from her again. Only later did I realize that the entry on my blog that particular day was about the “Serial Killer Quiz,” which matches aspects of your personality with famous serial killers. The entry would make total sense to anyone who knew about my other life as a crime writer. Others, including this woman, probably saw it a lot differently.

You can bet that I now have separate business cards--one for my crime writing and one for my journalism career, the latter of which does not include links to my website or blog.

Live and learn.

7 comments:

Tory Butterworth said...

One of the few times I use the "Doctor" designation my Ph.D. has officially given me is when I'm doing interviews for research studies. I find saying, "I'm Dr. Butterworth from the University of Pittsburgh," does get people on the phone, fast!

It made me realize the level of distrust created by telephone sales calls. Maybe the same is true for inteviewing by unscrupulous journalists?

Joyce said...

Hey, I liked your serial killer quiz! :-)

One reason I'm not a journalist is that I'd have to talk to people. Although I have to deal with the public in my day job, I'd much prefer the life of hermit-writer.

Nancy said...

I think we need a link to that serial killer quiz here! I went looking & couldn't find it. Anybody have the link to post here?

Kristine said...

Unfortunately, I think the Serial Killer Quiz has been taken off the Internet. I tried my old link and the site is gone.

Hmmm...makes you wonder, doesn't it?

(By the way, my match was Charles Manson.)

Pat said...

Well, Kristine you were a smarter kid than me...I finished my degree in Creative Writing and had quite a time finding work. As a journalist you at least had some "product" to show employers. I never did find a prospective employer who wanted to see the "really awesome short story" I wrote in my junior year. Of course, I'm not sure I've smartened up much since, I'm still trying to find an editor who wants to see my "really awesome WIP." My motto seems to be "Live and Never Learn"

Judith said...

Kristine:
I think that is so amusing that the teacher never talked to you again. I think she realized she was in over her head and that REAL writers explore all sides of life. Tee Hee. I want to see that quiz too.

Cathy said...

You have such integrity and kindness that these people don't deserve the pleasure of meeting you. You can tell them I said that.