I want to tell you what happened last week.

I am a journalist. Spent about a decade working for the Tampa Bay Times before I quit and moved to Virginia, where I freelance write full-time for Virginia’s largest paper.

Last week, I pursued four or five stories. Conducted interviews. Took pictures. Didn’t sleep enough.

Business as usual.

But multiple times in a few days, the subjects of stories I’d planned to write asked a question that grinds my gears: “Can I read what you write before it prints?”

HECK no.

And the answer is always no, by the way.

Because people are people. Because a person who reads a story about him or herself before it prints is tempted to do what he or she isn’t allowed to do: edit it. As soon as I allow a story’s subject to dictate what stays in the story and what doesn’t, what I do ceases to be journalism.

I cringe at the thought.

And when I cringed about it last week, I copped an attitude about it, in my head.

“Listen, pal,” I thought. “I’m in control, and I know what I’m doing. I’m good at this. Please trust me.”

I called my mom and I vented. Then I vented to an editor.

This is absurd, I said. That somebody would dare tell the story’s author how to make the story better, where somebody would tell me what belongs in his or her story and what doesn’t — that somebody would disregard that I’m equipped to do what I do, and to do it well.  ABSURD!

And then, I remembered.

I remembered being on my knees in prayer in pews in empty Catholic churches, where I dared tell the Author of Life how to make my story better. Where I told God what belongs in my life and what doesn’t. Where I disregarded that He’s equipped to do what He does, and to do it well.

And I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for forgetting that what He does is for my good and what I do should be for His glory.

And I’m sorry for not listening when He whispers what last week, I wanted to shout.

I’m in control, and I know what I’m doing. I’m good at this. Please trust me.

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  • Annalisa

    Hi Arleen, thanks for your writing!
    I personally found myself disappointed from what some journalists reported about my answers (that is in my far past, now I am totally anonymous and this is great =) ) : sometime they exaggerated too much, other times they changed facts and statements… Probably this is why your interviewed people asked to check your work, because you don’t want to be misrepresented or misunderstood, too many times journalists have not been trust-worthy. Maybe you are the occasion to make the interviewees change their mind about journalists but they don’t know it at the moment of the interview =)