When we can't see a personal benefit in an old task, and we give
it our all in any event, we're smarter for it.
I have to
admit that I almost went to rewrite.
If you don't know
journalism much, rewrite can define a form of self-plagiarism, where
you recycle your own work without telling readers. (It's also a
system of reporting news stories from the field to a “rewrite” man,
among other definitions not addressed here.)
If you've seen
the movie “I Love Trouble,” then you may remember the scene where an
older journalist, played by Nick Nolte, is caught by his editor
plagiarizing a past article to avoid the leg work in reporting. “And
I don't print recycled columns,” says the editor, who sends him off
to rediscover the challenges that he once loved in his trade.
August 1, 2016 - A construction worker measures a piece of heavy-gauge siding at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center in
Louisville, Tenn. Work on the Air National Guard training center's
new dormitory and classroom facility broke ground nearly two years
ago and is nearing completion. The facility will contain
approximately 47,000 square feet of additional space. (U.S. Air
National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith)
The young military journalists that I work with are not
too familiar with the rewrite trap, and that's partly
because they don't have 1,000-story portfolios built up from
Stress and deadlines can tempt us to
get the job completed easier and quicker with a rewrite, or
a professional cop-out. Do you have a comparable term in
A Forbes report in January listed what it
considers the 10 Most Stressful Jobs. #1 is an enlisted
service member, #6 is a public relations executive, #8 is a
broadcaster, and number #9 is a news reporter.
report seems daunting for National Guard public affairs
Airmen, often given just two days to complete a month's work
in all of those responsibilities.
I'll tell new
journalists enrolled online in the I.G. Brown Training and
Education Center's fourth edition of the basic news writing
program this fall that there's no easy way to good
My rewrite temptation came in recycling
the forward for the course, which I've written twice before.
I took the higher road, but it was not a dramatic or tough
decision. I like to write from scratch, even when it means
maybe not my best work, because it affords learning.
The course's spotlighted mentors, some of the best news
writers in the military, do their best to share lessons that
they learned in many years of repetitive field reporting.
They repeat, in similar fashion, that it's not a gift to be
skilled at something; rather, it comes from challenging
“... you have to commit yourself to being the
best, most professional journalist you can be and you can
only do that by constantly doing interviews, writing stories
and learning,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Hynes, an award winning
public affairs officer and journalist, who encouraged
students in his 2014 spotlight.
“The only way to get
better at something is to just do it ... You must practice,
practice, and practice,” suggested Tech. Sgt. Catharine
Schmidt, a former Air Force News editor and newspaper
reporter who writes on the National Guard's arctic and
“... there are times when we must
be ready to go above and beyond. And that means working on
things outside of drill hours ... the cold, hard fact is that
the superstars do that. Not all the time, but often,”
Michigan history writer and two-time Air National Guard
journalist of the year, Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton, told students
in his spotlight.
Hopefully, our mentors'
encouragement visits our minds when no one is watching, when
the opportunity to learn, even in the most mundane and
insignificant task we did 1,000 times before, means some leg
By U.S. Air National Guard MSgt. Michael Smith
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