Tag Archives: work

‘Cause my heart’s become a crooked hotel full of rumors

As a journalist, you have to keep your hand close to your chest. I always thought this was more of a cautionary tale taught in school: don’t make your opinions public, don’t have a bias. But who cares about me? Who’s actually paying attention to the things I say to my friends or on social media? Well, someone somewhere will be paying attention and that can really bite you in the ass if you’re not careful.

With race returning to the forefront of the media and all of the stories of suspected police brutality, it’s hard not to want to share an opinion, or a comment or even like a status on Facebook.

I told my cousin recently, “I haven’t made a comment one way or the other about the Michael Brown or Eric Garner or Tamir Rice case because I don’t want people to know where I stand on these issues in case I’m asked to cover something related to the topic. I’m scared to even like news stories.”

I know this may seem asinine, especially since a good journalist can write without showing an ounce of bias and ensuring the story is completely fair, true. But in this day and age of technology always getting the better of the least cautious, I’m too afraid to take any risk. And I guess in a way it paid off because tomorrow I’m covering a protest against the deaths of Brown, Garner and Rice.

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All that I know is I’m breathing

IMG_6008Forgive me for going almost a month without blogging. I hope your holiday was wonderful and the upcoming one is just as joyous. It’s been an increasingly difficult month for me, and I’m trying to just get one foot in front of the other at the moment. Baby steps. But, don’t worry. I’m here, I’m fine and we’re going to get through this month. Of course by “we” I mean “I” and by “through this” I mean “if you choose to read along you’ll come on this journey with me.”

My Juvenile Detention Center story is finished, and I’m emotionally all over the place about this. This project has been my baby for the past month, and it has been the only thing I can focus on for the last week. I can hardly explain how vaguely cathartic, yet frustrating revisions can be. I wrote the first draft of this story in early November after my first session at the JDC. I used bits and pieces of that first draft in my second write up after my second session at the detention center last week, and have since landed on my … I want to say sixth revision. I always feel like I’m going three steps forward and then, like, 14 back. It’s just this endless cycle of “oh, I like this,” “no, wait, this is shit.” “okay, this is much better … oh, no it’s not.” And on and on and on.

After draft number three I sent a copy of the story to my mom. I asked, “What don’t you get in this story?” It turned out to be extremely helpful, but she also didn’t sound captivated by the story, and to be totally, brutally honest — I was crushed. I’m glad that this happened though, because it pushed me to keep writing.

Another revision completed, my editor and I went over copy No. 4 on Sunday and he told me, “the parts of this story where you’re talking to me as Kalhan and you’re confident are captivating, but you get too formal and hesitant and it completely drops the momentum. You have a magnificent voice. You need to use it.”

And with that advice in mind I said, “You’re right. F*ck it.” And I stopped caring about menial formalities and words like “incarcerated females” or “garnered mixed reactions” and I just told the damn story. I still can’t tell if it’s any good (I’m standing too close at the moment), but I get the vibe it is. I sent a few chunks of rewrite to my editor to which he replied, “(now I) love it. That’s Kalhan talking, which is how it should be.”

I hope this does the girls justice. I’m so afraid I’ll have put so much into this story just to have it fall on its face. But, hey, learning or something … right? I guess we’ll see. The story gets its final read on Wednesday before it goes into the system for publishing on Monday.

I just keep reminding myself about those baby steps. Just get your foot back in front of the other, I think to myself. One breath in. One breath out. And the minutes go by. Once this story is in the can I’m going to need another big lead. Bigger than this. Bigger than Belize (not that Belize is done in any regard, it’s just so long term sometimes I lose sight of the next point of contact). Just bigger, more consuming. And I think the answer to that predicament is sitting in the bottom drawer of my nightstand.

I’ll let you know if I’m right. Next week on Seria — uh, I mean, what?

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Who is an honest man?

So many fun things going on!  I’m dying to talk about my latest projects, but sadly I can’t say much at the moment. What I can say is that I think this is going to be my first real investigative piece. I’m really excited and hopefully within the next two weeks I’ll be able to elaborate more about its contents. Stay tuned.

Let’s talk podcasts. I hope you’re listening to “Serial.” This brand new series comes to us from This American Life and NPR. It’s got all the elements to keep you coming back each week: phenomenal reporting, flawless editing and — like any good story — it’s impossible to put down.

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 11.50.50 PMSERIAL: Sarah Koenig is investigating the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, a popular, beautiful, athletic high school senior in Maryland. Adnan Syed, Hae’s ex-boyfriend, was charged with and convicted of her murder. The only problem: there’s no physical evidence brought against Adnan. None. The conviction was purely based on circumstance. What I gathered from the podcast is Adnan was the only person with a motive in killing Hae. Supposedly Adnan also told this guy Jay (who knows way too many details about the murder to not be involved, but that’s just my opinion) he was going to kill Hae and he needed Jay’s help to get rid of the evidence. Jay apparently assisted Adnan in disposing of the body to some degree, but was never charged with anything.

Anyway, Adnan still proclaims his innocence and all his family and friends say he was a model child; Homecoming prince (or court), leading prayers at the community mosque, an EMT, popular, friendly, with good grades. So it’s hard to figure out who’s telling the truth and who the liar is here.

Honestly, I couldn’t even tell you what scenario my money is on. I think Jay definitely is involved in the murder, and while I want to think Adnan is innocent (and I hope he is), it’s entirely possible and plausible he’s a really convincing liar. Also, I get the feeling we haven’t met all the players yet. Right now, “Serial” is on its fifth episode and Koeing is still in the dark about a lot on this series, too. Like how many episodes there will be or how the series will conclude.

Koenig said in an interview on “The Gist” that she is still actively reporting on the case and that each episode is still being edited just hours before it’s released. She also said she’s about 66 percent sure she knows how it will end, and therein lies what I love about this podcast. We’re essentially listening in real time. It’s gotta be daunting if you’re in Koenig’s shoes, but what an incredible challenge. Her reporting is so good and thorough. In one instance she talks to at least five sources to confirm or debunk the existence of a phone booth at a Best Buy in 1999. This woman is dedicated to her craft.

Episodes are released every Thursday morning and they’re free. Listen and tell me your theories.

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Let us shine for what it’s worth

I need a moment to gush about my job.

I hang out with interesting people, listen to their stories and share them — then I get a paycheck. (Okay, so I won’t be a millionaire any time soon, but who cares when you love what you do? Right? Right.)

Also, I just so happen to be in a tremendously lucky position. I work with phenomenal editors, who trust me, which is infinitely invaluable, I assure you. Without that, I wouldn’t have 80-plus stories filed in the last eight months. I wouldn’t have my first pitched and produced story published. I wouldn’t have lasted this long.

Spending the day with a person, getting to know a piece of them and then conveying that is an especially rare and precious gift. It’s so intimate and the pressure is immense, but when you do it right — there’s nothing like it.

My advice: if you can tell stories for a living, do it. If you can tell stories for a short period of time, do it. If you can tell stories forever, yours just might end up more interesting than those you tell.

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