In my role as a journalist, I am often involved in events that occur in and around the county. I cover parades, festivals, council meetings, debates, neighborhood disputes, non-profit charity fundraisers, local school events and anything and everything that falls on my radar.
I often his several events in a day, run into the same people and have made connections — in some cases, friends — with people involved in all occupations and all walk of life in the area.
But there is one thing that everything I cover has in common: I’m not directly involved.
When I go to a city council meeting, I would never sign up to speak during the public forum part, even if I had something to say. To do so would be to insert myself in the happenings and that’s not my job. I am there to report: This is what happened, this is who said it.
You will never find my opinion or conjecture in any article I write, to do so would be unprofessional. Other than this page, the Op-Ed page, the writer’s opinion is irrelevant. I don’t create news, I don’t influence events. I’m there, but I’m behind the scenes, carefully documenting with photographs and words.
Which is why recently I was thrown for such a loop.
On Monday, I was approached by American Legion Post 52’s adjunct Paul Smith and asked to be the guest speaker at the Legion’s next meeting.
I was blown away. Flattered. Honored. Panicked …
My immediate response was a flat-out no, but Paul was persistent and because I have great respect for both him and the organization, I eventually relented. He talked me into it.
Which brings me to my current predicament: I have no idea what I should talk about.
Paul was vague when I asked him for suggestions: He said I could talk about anything I wanted. I could speak on my role as a local journalist, speak about being a mom of a special needs child or speak about how I see our community as a whole, where it’s going.
He was trying to be helpful, but his comments only highlighted how (not) qualified I am to address any group of people in any sort of public forum.
I am not directly involved in the community, I’m a permanent outsider — as dictated by my choice of profession. As a member of “The Media,” I am not accustomed to expressing my opinion on, well, anything as it pertains to the area.
Just the facts.
There’s also the glaring fact that this is the American Legion — and I’m not a veteran. What could a 35-year-old woman possibly have to say that would be of interest to these men?
On those rare occasions when I have spoken to a group about my profession, it was to a class of young people debating on whether or not to pursue journalism as a career. But these men aren’t considering a change of career — most of them are retired. What interest could they possible have in the daily life of a newspaper reporter?
Because I’ve already agreed — and it’s too late to back out — I have settled into a state of quiet panic.
I am quite convinced I am going to make a fool out of myself and embarrass our fine newspapers but perhaps I am overreacting, Paul certainly seems to think so. Then again, I suspect that he has that casual affinity with pretty much everyone he meets — something introverts inherently lack.
Like most others I know that write for a living, words come much easier to me through a pen and paper rather than by oration. In the past, when I have agreed to speak to groups, my speech patterns become rushed, nervous.
There’s a reason I work at a newspaper and not on camera: You can’t edit live speech. Well, maybe I can. Perhaps I should bring my editor with me …
Kasie Strickland is a staff writer for The Easley Progress and The Pickens Sentinel and can be reached at email@example.com. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.