CAROLYN'S COMPOSITIONS

August 9, 2009

Journalism Rules and Professionalism: I had neither!

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

JOURNALISM RULES AND PROFESSIONALISM

I Had Neither!

      In searching for a certain picture, I came across my first press pass (http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/?saved=1 ).

     Over the years that I have been a freelance newspaper photojournalist, my editors had to put up with a lot from me. I was definitely not always “professional.”

     I was working at the newspaper until closing time, and the editor asked me (for the tenth time) if I could be back the first thing in the morning to complete our work.

     “Yes,” I said. “I’ll roll out of bed and into the office.”

     The next morning, I put my work clothes on, but didn’t wash my face or comb my hair. I grabbed my papers, my floor-length, maroon, fluffy bathrobe and my matching slippers. When I arrived at the newspaper, I parked in the back. I put on the robe and replaced my shoes with my slippers before entering the back door of the office.

     As I entered, I feigned yawning, as I said, “I told you I would just roll out of bed and into the office.”

     During the time I worked at one newspaper, I was needed to help my daughter with her newborn baby, Jordan. I would pack my briefcase, camera case, bottles and diapers when I took an article in to be edited (I sat with the editors while they worked on improving my writing). I would spread a blanket out on the floor (Jordan was not crawling yet) and work with the editor. Often, I would have to take a few minutes break to prepare her bottle, change her diaper, or quiet her down.

     I remember being asked by one editor to cover a wrestling banquet that I was attending. “No,” I said, turning and leaving. Tossing over my shoulder, “I know nothing about wrestling.” Then I did a turnabout. “Yes, I can,” I told the editor. “My husband is a wrestler, and he can edit it for me.” Monte did, and laughed at my mistakes while he corrected them. The article went in great.

     A mother should know her son’s name, right? Well…she may…but she may not always use it. I almost caused the newspaper lawsuit when I submitted the name of a five year old, given to me by his mother. She, however, was divorced from the child’s father, and told me his last name was the same as hers was. She had remarried. Never did I expect that a mother would lie about her son’s name. I erred, breaking the rule about asking the child to give me his name.

     But then, the editors I worked with didn’t follow the rules either. I found that together we “broke” some of the rules of journalism. Below are a couple of these “rules.”

REMAIN FREE OF ASSOCIATIONS AND ACTIVITIES THAT MAY COMPROMISE INTEGRITY OR DAMAGE CREDIBILITY.

AVOID CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, REAL OR PERCEIVED.

     Obviously, this implies that the journalist should not write about the organizations  with which they are involved. However, Jamestown (PA) is a small, rural town. When I arrived on the scene, the long-term freelancer for the Greenville Record Argus newspaper was ready to pass the job on, and I became the recipient. I also received a grant from the Children’s Trust Fund based on the premise that healing an adult of their childhood abuse would break the intergenerational chain of abuse. After receiving word of the grant I approached the newspaper’s and informed him that the new program needed a picture in the newspaper. Community residents needed to know about the new program. Logically, it should be the head of the program (me) photographed with the director of the county’s Children and Youth agency. I fully expected him to say (more…)

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