When I was 13 I was writing a novel. Unfortunately (or luckily — probably luckily), the file has long been lost, so I cannot even guess what weird plot I slaved over all those years ago. If I remember correctly, there were elves. I was not a cool 13 year old.
If you had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, then I would have said I wanted to be a writer. I would still say that. But when I was 13, I hadn’t yet realized that being a writer means being painfully open with thousands of strangers. I don’t want to tell strangers about my life. So I stopped writing fiction.
Since my sophomore year of high school, I have written news. I called officials, I stopped students on the street, I wrote down what they said and I wrote headlines such “Students frustrated by payment options in GSU.” Was I one of those students? No, I use convenience points I buy on my iPhone while I wait in line. But students said it. So I wrote it.
News has a formula. It tells you what is happening, why it’s happening and what people who are informed or involved have to say about the thing that is happening. It’s simple. News is writing about someone else’s life, and I like that. With news you ask for other people’s opinions and you hide behind those words.
The Associated Press reported Monday that 25 countries have signed on to the statement blaming Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government for a chemical weapons attack. The statement calls for a strong international response. I don’t want to tell you what I think of that. I want to find someone else to tell you what they think about that, because I’m a journalist and that’s what I do.
I want to call an international relations professor and to have him say what it means when countries including Germany, Denmark, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Hungary, Kosovo and Honduras tacitly back U.S. President Barack Obama’s call for military action, even though the countries themselves are not pledging military support. I want to call an economist and ask what she thinks military action will do to the U.S. economy and other international economies. Then, I will put their words into quotation marks and say something such as: “U.S. action in Syria risky, experts say,” or, “growing support for military action in Syria is short-sighted in terms of the big picture and geo-political politics.”
But only if that’s what they said. I’m not saying that.
Last week JP Morgan Chase announced they would no longer be accepting applications for private student loans, leaving only one big bank still loaning to students. If you need a loan for school, you either need Uncle Sam’s help or a loan from Wells Fargo. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 66.2 percent of 2012 high school graduates enrolled in college. How many of those students will be worried long after they exit their college doors four years later? I don’t know, but I’d like to ask them.
I want to stop students on the street and ask them about their loan burdens. I want to hear stories of recent graduates who are taking terrible, non-major related jobs because they need to start paying the banks. I want to find the graduates out there who declared bankruptcy and still have loans to pay back. I want to tell their stories of their struggles.
What are my thoughts on student loans? Oh, I won’t tell you that. That’s my business. I don’t want that in print.
See, I don’t like to put my opinion out there. While writing is cathartic for many writers, I feel exposed. When someone comes in to write this column full time, they will feel some sort of release by putting their informed opinion out there. They’re standing tall telling the world that they have something to say.
Those brave people are important. But I’m not one of those people. Me? I’ll just keep telling you what other people said.
Emily Overholt is a senior in the College of Communication. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter follow @EmilyOverholt