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Archive for May 12th, 2007

Young but respectable

Saturday, May 12th, 2007

Last week, a school board members introduced me to another community member as, “This is Meranda Watling, she’s with the newspaper.”

The woman said, “Oh the Exponent!” And I shot back — probably a little too quickly — “No, the Journal & Courier.” I think she thought I was offended, and I was just a little. Though, I take student media more seriously than most people, so I don’t know why I was so much.

I think I still feel I have something (OK a lot of something) to prove, and I guess that’s normal right. To feel inadequate at times, especially in the beginning?

There was a post in the journalists community at LiveJournal the other day about things you wish someone had told you when you were just starting out. And one of the comments was, “You will feel like you suck every single day for at least six months.” I was so relieved to realize it’s not just me.

I do have my moments where I surprise myself or when sources tell me I’m doing a good job or they enjoy my work. A few weeks back, a teacher randomly told me I was “doing an exceptional job” and that the paper had been needing someone like me for a long time. I don’t take compliments well, and usually just laugh and say, “Well, I try.” But honestly? Stuff like that makes me smile for a whole day, maybe even a week. I don’t know if it’s normal or if they’d say it to everyone, but every time it happens, it makes my day because I feel like my hard work actually makes a difference to at least that person that day.

After the “No, the J&C” comment, the woman commented, “oh, well, I just assumed, you look so young.” And then I realized she was entirely right. I don’t just look young, I am young. Most people my age are still in college, in which case I probably would be reporting for the Exponent (Purdue’s paper). I forget that. Though I get a lot of “you sound young” or “look so young” and I have to explain, well, yeah, I’m 21.

There are people who say, “she’s only 21, what does she know?” And one person in particular who calls me “kiddo.” (Note to anyone who has a young person in their office: Do not do this. It’s demeaning, and it only serves to undermine the experience I do have, which if you bothered to look or ask, you would see is nothing to be ashamed of, especially considering my age.) It’s crazy, because I work as hard if not harder than most of them. If anything my age is a great asset because I can do the hard-nosed, shoe-leather reporting, but I also have no trouble navigating new media or talking to students on their level.

I work for every bit of respect because I am new here, and then double because I am young. I haven’t established that track record yet. I’m definitely still proving myself, not just to them but to me. This is true of my friends across other media outlets with whom I’ve discussed this.

You don’t have to cut me, or other young people like me, slack. We don’t need it or want it because it won’t make us any better. Yeah, we didn’t come out of j-school ready for a Pulitzer, but most of us did come out ready to do good journalism, in multiple platforms, without delusions of grandeur about this industry and the changing media landscape. We came ready to work hard and make a difference. Regardless of my age, I applied for and was hired for this job. As long as I’m doing it well, whether I’m 21 or 41, I should still get the same respect.

QOTD: Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps

Saturday, May 12th, 2007

“Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps, for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are and what they ought to be.”
— William Hazlitt