My father is a newspaper; my mother is a magazine

A little information about my family: when I was about 5 years old, my parents divorced. After the dust settled, they ended up with joint custody of my sister and me, and between the ages of about 6 and 16, I lived back and forth between my mom and my dad’s house.

In a sense, spending so much time with one parent specifically, rather than both of them together, taught me how different they really were. I would always experience the interesting contrast between their personalities as I would transition back and forth.

My dad was always — and in fact still is — solid, straightforward, serious, structured, a little more strict. When I was with my dad, I generally knew what to expect. Is there anything wrong with that? Of course not. I love my dad.

My mom has always been a little bit different — more spontaneous, go-with-the-flow, loud, laid back. Around her, anything could happen. Is there anything wrong with that? Of course not. I love my mom.

Why do I say this?

Because at 2a.m. on Wednesday morning, my living room looked like this, according to Instagram:

After more than a month of wading around in my profile, drafting and redrafting, it looks like I am starting to move it toward publication. I met up with Liz on Wednesday to talk about getting it in the Missourian.

And I’ve got my work cut out for me.

I’ve become increasingly aware of how different magazine and newspaper writing is over the course of the semester. But I think my biggest moment of this realization was sitting down with Liz and talking about how there are a number of pieces of my story I will have to refocus before I can take it to print. It isn’t that my story is bad. I’m still pretty proud of what I ended up with. But it’s not newspaper.

So in the wee hours of “not quite sure if it’s Tuesday or Wednesday at this point,” I sat on my living room floor with three copies of my story, cutting one of them to pieces to pull out things I wouldn’t need and mercilessly covering another draft in Xs and scribbles and notes and ideas. I made a nut graph out of cut up pieces of story and put them together with tape and a glue stick.

And at the end of my late-night ordeal and a morning meeting with Liz, I ended up with a clear focus and direction of how to shape my story for newspaper.

In a strange way, learning to navigate shaping a story for a newspaper or a magazine reminds me of growing up in two houses with two very different parents. Is there anything wrong with the way my parents act or live their lives? No, they’re great people, and I’m quite fond of them, if I do say so myself. But I can’t pretend they aren’t different. I can’t pretend that they don’t focus their attention differently and have different ideas about what they want to be doing.

In the same way, news writing and magazine writing are, well, different. And to an extent, I can’t pretend that they don’t focus their attention differently and try to accomplish things in a different way. But like learning from living with two very different parents, I can accept those differences and use them to inform what I want to do as a journalist or as a person. And there are times when one aspect of journalism (or my upbringing) serves my goals better than others. The different aspects are still important, and they inform who I am and what I want to do. But I can learn to use the right balance in the right situation to build a story that best serves my readers and the type of medium I’m using.

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One thought on “My father is a newspaper; my mother is a magazine

  1. It’s still sort of crazy how similar parts of our stories (lives) are. My parents also divorced when I was 5. They also had joint custody of my sister and me, and I went back and forth between the two houses between the ages of 6 and 16. My parents, of course, are also very different; my mom is the more “strict” one, though, and my dad is more laid back. We could do lots of things at his house that our mom would never have allowed (and very much wished my dad didn’t either…ha).

    Nice analogy to writing for different publications. Although I’ve never written any kind of “journalism” piece, I could make this same analogy for research writing and the writing I do for planning programs.

    Anyway…good luck with your writing, etc.

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