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Why can’t we be friends?

October 7th, 2010

As a journalist, is it possible for me to be your friend and stay true to my journalistic nature? The answer is, probably not.

When I was applying at Dairy Queen for what would later become my first job, the interviewers asked me what was more important, speed or quality. If the job was with a newspaper instead of an ice cream shop they might have asked me: Which is more important, to be a good friend, or to be a good journalist?

I respect journalists a lot because while most people love what journalists report, they often despise the person doing the reporting. If a journalist isn’t reporting fluff, they will probably be disliked by someone for what they write, regardless of whether it is unbiased.

My roommate is not affiliated with The Carroll News. In fact, she holds an executive position on the Student Union Board. Student Union and The Carroll News are sometimes seen as enemies and I’m sure over the years we’ve ruffled a few feathers. People in our respective organizations questioned us on our decision to live together.

Last semester, as we were signing our lease, she interviewed a public relations specialist for a class project. The woman she talked to said, “A journalist is never your friend.” I don’t think she told the woman that she would be living with a newspaper editor next year, but I would have liked to have heard her response. At this point in the year I think my roommate would happily tell that woman that either I’m not a real journalist, or that she was misinformed.

Another person I know is concerned that if I see him at a bar I might write a story about him. Well, Greg, this is as close as it is going to get.

You see, as journalists, we have a responsibility to report the truth, but we’re human too. We always want to know what is going on, but we don’t want to hurt people. If I reported everything I heard the newspaper would be a different sort of interesting, but I don’t really think the campus would be better off.

We discuss all of our story ideas at a weekly staff meeting, and when necessary, we contact professors and professionals for advice. Journalists are thoughtful, meaning we carefully think about what we print.

So, to answer the question posed by my fabricated newspaper interviewers, I would tell them the same thing I told the people at Dairy Queen. There needs to be a balance. That answer, and hopefully some other qualifications, got me the job. And that answer is something I truly believe. There is a balance to being a friend and a journalist and while I will always be a journalist at heart, it is also possible to be my friend.