Why I write. (Q & A)

In 2011, around the time I became a journalist at the Trinidad Guardian, the longest standing national newspaper in my country, I remembered being told that journalism would be a waste of my talent.

My best friend at the time repeatedly preached that it was selling out on my dream and that news would suck my creativity into a black hole, leaving my writing robotic and unoriginal.

Journalism definitely changed my writing. It improved it. The greatest blessing has been using my natural storytelling ability to relate matters of importance to a public, which is constantly fed lies.

I love writing. I love story-telling. I love journalism. Even when journalism doesn’t love me.

Around the time I started at the Guardian, I remember seeing a Q&A with journalists on the Learning Network, a website I was familiar with.

As I sit back and reflect on six years of journalism, I decided to ask myself those same questions. It’s to remind myself why I do this, despite the many challenges and partly because sometimes in answering certain questions, I surprise myself.

Q: How did you become a reporter?

A: I had always wanted to be a journalist and equally discouraged from doing so. My family was of the opinion that I was too smart to pursue journalism and I succumbed to peer pressure and started a marketing degree at Montgomery College Maryland. Sometime during my degree, I had an epiphany in the form of a total breakdown and I packed my clothes and moved back to Trinidad. I started freelance writing and doing office jobs to figure my life out. Then one day, I saw an ad in the Guardian for a reporter and I knew in my heart it was for me. I applied. Then I called multiple times per week, for two months to check on my application. I think the Ag Editor-in-Chief at the time, Anthony Wilson probably interviewed me just so I would stop calling.

Q.What are the things you’re most proud of having written, from any time in your life?

Occasionally, I get emails in my inbox about my writing, specifically about my ability to pull readers into the story. Once, a man emailed me and told me my story brought tears to his eyes and called me a hero. I responded that I wasn’t but it was touching. That specific email referred to a story I did on the Enterprise community, using first-person narration. It was a community ravaged by gun violence with young people as the main casualties. The entire story was based on an interview with one of those young people who lived daily affected by the violence that surrounded her. There was a risk of people not understanding what we were trying to do, and some people didn’t. The vast majority of people got it and a number of people emailed me to say it inspired their activism for the community. There is a great honour in gaining the trust of someone so that they give you their story. I think all stories are precious, beautiful, fragile things, to be treated with absolute care.

Q. How would you describe your writing process?

I want to use the word rampageous, but that’s not totally accurate. It really depends on what I’m writing. I have different style techniques that I apply which affect the process. For a hard news story, I list facts and basically edit for grammar and spelling. I don’t mess with it too much or make it too conversational. My aim is to be clear and straight-forward so my process matches the structure. Inverted pyramid. For the news features, which to be honest is my favourite type of story, I am more focused on context and research so I’m thorough, though a bit haphazard. I gather all the information, slap it on a screen, read it through and then go for the most compelling angles. When I’m done, sometimes I draw a mock-up of what I would like the page to look like, including the headlines and photos. Once I deliver the story, I spend a few hours beating myself up about how much better it could have been.

Q. What’s the strangest or most interesting thing you’ve ever written about or researched for a writing project?

It’s all interesting, isn’t it? That’s what makes journalism so great. Learning new things is perhaps the only thing I love doing as much as writing. I’m fascinated by all of it. AT the same time, I’m very open-minded so I don’t really use the word strange to describe things I’ve written. I think the strangest things about journalism all happens behind the scenes. I hope I can write about it one day.

Q. How do outside forces influence or shape your writing?

Whenever I have a story idea, I tend to have conversations about it, with people who I know have vastly different perspectives. It helps me to see things, that because of my ideals and personality and nature, I may miss. I accept that I don’t know everything and so I really love seeking the opinions of people around me. I think it enhances my final product.

Q.Why do you write?

It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. When I was younger I would make up stories and share with my friends. I wrote a full book when I was twelve.  I loved seeing how reading what I wrote transformed them, how they would laugh and smile and sometimes cry and then the discussions we would have afterward.

As a journalist, my reason for writing didn’t change, it was enhanced. Today, I write because it’s what I was meant to do. I write because I know the cliche that knowledge is power is as accurate today as it was when it was first written. I love knowing that the care and attention I pay to accuracy and context means someone, somewhere knows a little more today than they did yesterday. I think I owe something to my country and journalism is the way I choose to contribute.

Thank you for reading.

K. S. Clyne

“Truth is not diminished by the number of people who believe it.”

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