The reporter, the columnist and the man
I pulled up to the radio station on Lauderdale, WHBB 1490 AM, around 8:30 a.m. Friday morning and found my way inside, coffee close at hand, and took a seat between Mike Reynolds and Randy Williams, hosts of the station’s “Viewpoint” segment.
We talked local politics, specifically the controversies and failures that have cropped up during the administration of Selma’s absentee mayor, the upcoming campaign season and the city’s needs and even heard from callers asking questions about the Selma Police Department (SPD) and recent reporting in the Times-Journal.
It was simultaneously exciting and terrifying as, for the first time, I was asked to migrate my thoughts, opinions and ideas from the editorial page to the spoken word, a daunting task for one living three realities on any given day – the reality of a reporter, a columnist and a man.
To be sure, expressing myself forcefully and frankly is something I’ve become quite adept at over the years – if you ask my mother, it’s something I’ve been good at since I learned to speak – but reporters walk a fine line when expressing themselves in such a manner, putting their very professional reputation, which requires stoic objectivity, on the line.
As a reporter, it is my job to witness and not judge, to see and hear but take no position, and write as concisely and clearly as possible the facts of whatever event I’m meant to cover, whether a city council meeting, a campaign kickoff event, a school fundraiser, a lecture at the library or anything else.
As a columnist, it is my job to witness and analyze, to see and hear and formulate an opinion that represents both the merits or lack of merits of any proposed legislation, official action or community event and judge how it might impact the local community, for better or worse.
As a man, it is my job to be a good husband and father by providing for, nurturing and protecting my wife and children; to be a good son and brother by being available to my family at a moment’s notice; to be a good human being by extending a hand to strangers and standing up for what is good and right in any circumstance.
While the three exist simultaneously at all times, one has to be able to disconnect the wires from two to be successful at one – when I am writing a news story, I can’t allow my opinions to get in the way, nor my thoughts and worries related to home; when I am writing a column, objectivity has to be disregarded in the interest of drafting a calculated and coarse opinion, as does the delicacy with which I handle my loved ones; when I am taking a nap with my children or having dinner with my wife, I have to cast aside the newsman’s curiosity and the columnist’s bias.
It is daunting at times to separate the reporter from the columnist and the man, as each guides the other’s actions but must be ignored in the interest of proper application, but I strive in all that I do and say and, especially, write to maintain that strange balance.
Being on the radio sparked undue fear, as a live broadcast leaves little room for the man to decide whether the reporter or the columnist needs to speak, but I navigated it as sure-footedly as possible – stick to facts when possible and lean on them when voicing an opinion; direct animosity not toward people but towards actions or inactions; stay focused on the question at hand, avoid distractions and answer as calmly and truthfully as possible.
In order to do all that, the man must prevail, for it is in his understanding of the semantics of human interactions, desires and needs, and his overbearing compassion for all people, that the columnist and the reporter are able to do their jobs when called upon.
In the decades following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, great pains... read more