In this writing journey I am privileged to meet people from varying backgrounds and life experiences. I am actually quite surprised at how willing people are to share their stories and lives with me, a stranger who happens to be writing a book. I am, as yet, unpublished and my literary integrity untested and unproven. Their openness allows me to take my characters from a two dimensional name on a page to a believable and relatable three dimensional person to whom we can build an emotional attachment.
In the last month I have met and interviewed two people whom I count it not just a privilege to know, but am humbled by how they have come through difficult experiences in their professional lives and risen above those circumstances to be honourable members of their professions.
The first is a former UN Peacekeeper who continues to struggle – like many of his brothers in arms – with the trauma of his years of service in high conflict areas. His life is uncannily similar to one of my characters and I would like to thank him for his openness in sharing his story with me. I am grateful for his service to our country and his willingness to serve his fellow man in areas of extreme danger and instability. I will not be sharing anything more about my interview with him, nor name him in this public forum, but I wanted to express my gratitude for his service and that of all our military personnel wherever they may be serving around the world.
The second person I have interviewed is a newspaper reporter, who daily sees both the miraculous and the tragic of our society and feels the emotional highs and lows that result from the in-depth examination required of her job. I have know this reporter for several years as our professional lives at times intersected, and I now consider her a friend. She was very gracious in taking me behind the scenes at her workplace and answering all the questions I put to her about her work and how she does her job.
Newspaper reporters and journalists are often thought of as invasive and unfeeling in their attempts to get “the story.” This stereotypical view of the journalistic profession is often perpetuated by how they are represented in movies and tv shows. Reporters are quite often used as a plot device or an antagonistic element to a story line. In this age of the instant and sensational news bite and society’s thirst for the gossip of celebrity lives, how can we not be somewhat judgmental when we hear the word ‘reporter.’ There will always be bad apples in the bushel, but a high percentage of every profession consists of individuals who are in it for honourable reasons, and this is true in the field of journalism. Consider last years film entitled Spotlight, about the Boston Globe investigative journalists who exposed the cover up of sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic church.
With ever busier lives, the 24 hour news cycle and social media are constantly vying for our shortening attention spans, therefore we we must ask ourselves: Why is this Important? What is it that makes a story relevant and worthy of our attention? These are the questions a reporter asks themselves and strives to answer when working on a story. The topics any reporter investigates in the course of their careers could range from highlighting medical treatments that save lives, to covering the disappearance of women in Vancouver’s East Side. The first, brought awareness that led to further funding for necessary medical services, the second led to the conviction of a serial killer for the murders of forty-nine women over the course of several years. Read both of these articles here and here. And this is just on a local level.
Consider the international events that reporters endeavour to bring to our attention. For example, in 1994, when Rwanda was experiencing one of the worst genocides in modern history, Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire, head of the UN Peacekeeping mission, reached out to the journalistic community begging them to bring the events occurring in Rwanda to international attention. Reporters and journalists help keep our focus on the things that matter, things that threaten our security as a society and as individuals on local and international levels.
Members of the journalistic profession dedicate their lives to keeping society aware and accountable and in a way making it possible, to some extent, for us to live safely and in harmony. They don’t consider themselves just reporting the news, as though it were gossip around the water cooler.
The title of this post relates to the name of the origins of the daily news cycle. In 59 BC, Julius Ceasar ordered the publishing of government announcement bulletins within the Roman Empire. These bulletins, called Acta Diurna, were carved on either metal or stone and posted in public gathering places such as the Forum in Rome.
Since that empirical decree over two millennia ago, bringing to light these “daily acts” has been the calling of many men and women around the world. Whether acts of kindness or unspeakable horror, reporters and journalists make those acts known to the world. They willingly enter into dangerous and heartbreaking situations where many have lost their lives as a result. If they return home safe and able to publish their story, it does not mean they return unharmed for they too may suffer from varying degrees of post traumatic stress.
In their own way, reporters and journalists are soldiers and their weapons are photos and words wielded on the battlefield of society’s selfishness and ignorance. Every news headline at the very least redirects our focus from our individual lives and makes us aware of our place in the human community. At their best, those headlines are a battle cry which cause us to rise up and take action.