Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lillian Ross: Rules of Reporting

By Faye Forman

I enjoyed Lillian Ross’s “writer’s rules of reporting,” as her insight could certainly be helpful to a prospective journalist. Ross opens the article by emphasizing the importance of being “chemically involved in a story,” stating that a journalist should never act as if they are not present. She signifies her writing technique with a few personal, fundamental tips.

Some of my favorites are: write as though you are creating a short story (beginning, middle, end), and journalists should never arbitrarily add their own opinions and feelings, but rather incorporate quotations and evidence that represent them. I appreciate Ross’s adamant guidelines, as she is fully aware of her writing style, emphasizing what works best for her. Next she bullet points her essential guidelines when writing. Ross’s obligation to the people she writes about is extremely noble, as she explains no matter how indiscreet a person is, she always uses her own judgment when writing about them. I think that’s important, especially during a time where negative publicity is rampant in tabloids and television.

I also appreciate Ross’s selectivity when it comes to who or what she writes about. Ross only writes about what interests her, but unfortunately that option isn’t always accessible to novice writers. What I liked the most about Ross’s article is her authenticity. Her passion for writing and reporting are clear. She states that she will not take on a story for strictly financial reasons, which is commendable, especially in the given economy. Overall, I will definitely take Lillian Ross’s tips into account for future writing (and hopefully journalistic!) endeavors.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Lillian Ross: Tips On Writing

By Alyssa Hamilton 

The essay that Lillian Ross has written on writing is very interesting and raises some points worth exploring. I do agree that each writer is different just as each human being is different from one another, and I don’t think that people realize this when they read news-writing because, while it can be easy to differentiate between the styles of poets, it isn’t as easy to discern which reporter has written a news-piece.

She makes an interesting point that “a reporter is always chemically involved in a story.” When you think about it, it’s very true, since without the reporter, the story would not exist as it does because of the angle the reporter has chosen to take on a story.

I also agree that a reporter can’t tell readers how a subject feels aside from quoting or describing actions because it’s not a reporter’s place to place an emotional spin on things. I agree that reporters must be straightforward because that is how readers will understand their article, which is very important.

However, I disagree that you can only write about what interests you and can’t write about anyone that you don’t like. While she may be able to afford this luxury, not everybody can, and you have to be able to bite the bullet and just write about whatever is assigned to you, trying to find something interesting or likeable about your subject. It may be desirable to write about only things you like, but this isn’t reality for many people.

She brings up an interesting point when she wrote that “just because someone ‘said it’ is no reason for me to use it.” She recognizes that her subjects are trusting her when she writes a piece about them, and to just publish something for controversy instead of an accurate depiction would ruin the relationship a reporter has with their subject.

I disagree that you shouldn’t take an assignment for financial reasons. Money is still important when you’re trying to make a living, not something to be ignored for the sake of your own conscience. If your job is to report the news in an unbiased way, then that is your assignment; it’s not like you’re being asked to support something that you find morally objectionable. Another thing that she wrote that doesn’t sit well with me is that “literal reality rarely rings true.” What is literal hasn’t been distorted, so that is reality at its purest. I do understand that people sometimes put on a front when being recorded out of nervousness, but that isn’t reality. I do agree, however, that listening to your subject is most important because that is where your story comes from. To actually listen to your subject, and not simply hear, to actively engage is important because that is what interviewing is about.

Overall, Lillian Ross’s piece is valuable because it brings many points to the table, both correct and open to discussion, and because of this, is a good tool in teaching beginner journalists how to treat their work.

Lillian Ross: Her Love for Journalism

By Alyssa Ramirez

 Reading “Letter from Lillian Ross” by an American journalist who had been a reporter for The New Yorker, taught me a lot about her writing technique and her love for journalism. 

Lillian Ross begins her letter by giving her perspective on a common journalistic technique: acting as a “fly on the wall.” This is when the reporter will act invisible and watch everything that is going on around him/her without interrupting the scene. Lillian Ross does not agree with this technique because she believes that “a reporter is always chemically involved in a story.” In other words, a reporter has to interact with the people he/she is writing about. I agree with her because in order to fully understand what you are writing about, you need to be a part of the situation and interact with the people who make your story; seeing different points of view and speaking with your subjects can change everything. 

Ross goes further to make an important point that when writing a story, you must state facts. As a reporter, you do not have the right to assume what your subjects are thinking or feeling. Therefore, it is always important to use quotes and as many as possible.

In the second part of her letter, Lillian Ross gives several guidelines that she always uses when writing. There were several points from her guidelines that stood out to me which I feel could help me in my own writing. One point she makes is that she tries to “write as clearly and simply and straightforwardly as possible.” Ross says that in reporting, there is no room for unnecessary comments, words, or phrases. This is something that I need to work on because I tend to use unnecessary words that add length to my work. 

Another guideline that Ross used which interested me was the responsibility she felt that she owed to the people she wrote about. She was very careful with the details that her subjects would give her. She felt that she had to be mindful of the things that her subjects told her and that she didn’t have the right to use everything that they said. Ross also felt obligated to maintain a relationship with the people she wrote about even after the piece was printed.

There are a few of Lillian Ross’s guidelines that I do not agree with. For example, she points out that “tape-recorded interviews are not only misleading; they are unrealistic; they are lifeless.” I do not agree with this because I believe that they aid the reporter in getting as much detail for their piece as possible. A tape recorder allows me to focus and pay more attention to my subject and what they are saying rather than giving them half of my attention while I spend the other half rushing to write down key phrases. Using a tape recorder will give me the ability to focus on the conversation and in return, I will have a better memory of what happened and what was said. If I do forget something, I can always go back to my recorder for refreshment. Therefore, a tape recorder acts as a backup, not the actual experience.

Overall, I got the impression that Lillian Ross loved what she did and was an important figure in the journalism world. She had a great passion for her work and that is the precise element that made her stories great. In her letter she quotes Monica Seles, a famous tennis player: “It’s what I love to do, and it’s given me a special and wonderful life.” Ross says that this is how she feels about journalism and I believe that this quote sums up her entire letter.

Lillian Ross: The Not So “Fly on the Wall”

By Colleen Pagnani
As a reporter for The New Yorker, Lillian Ross always focused on stories she found interesting. To editors, Ross had a very unique style of reporting and writing. In her mind a reporter should always be “chemically involved” in writing a story, the total opposite of a “fly on the wall.” Without being heard or seen, Ross believed reporters had no shot of writing a successful piece. And just like in story writing, Ross thought that the most effective way to get her point across would be to include a beginning, middle, and an end.

I learned a lot regarding the topic of reporting from reading Ross’ letter. There were a lot of ideas I agreed with, but also some that I did not. I agreed with the idea that reporters should keep their stories short and sweet and to the point. However, I could potentially argue the idea that reporters should only choose to cover stories that are appealing to them. In my opinion, a reporter’s job is to cover any lead that requires attention, instead of ignoring the ones they do not like. Of course writing about something non-interesting to the reporter can hurt the final story, but it is part of their job and one should be prepared either way. A very important, yet forgotten fact that I also agree with, involves ‘listening’ and how it is the most important action in being a reporter.

As a whole, I agreed with Ross and her style of reporting. She knew that keeping things simple, and letting her mind do all the work, was the most effective way to write. That is the reason she was a successful journalist. I also learned that as long as you believe in what you are writing about, you are bound to write an article worth reading, whether you agree with the topic or not. And, in the end, none of this could be possible if she acted like a “fly on the wall.”

Lillian Ross: A Passion for Writing

By Daniel Longarino  

I learned quite a few things in reading Lillian Ross’ essay. Journalism is something she seems to be very passionate about, which brings me to the first thing I learned. One of her guidelines was that she only writes about things that appeal to her, which I think is very important. For example, if she wasn’t interested and passionate about this essay topic, I highly doubt that it would be as well written and engaging. When I write about topics I find interesting, I find experience to be fun, easy to do and ends up producing a much better end result than if I was not interested. Writing about things I don’t find interesting is extremely tedious and boring. Reading this article, I learned to always write about what I find interesting, because that’s when I will be at my best.

Another thing I learned from reading this essay is that as Lillian Ross noted, “all writers are different from every other writer, the way every human being is different from every other.” To me, this quote means that while writing has rules that should be followed; a writer should always include their own technique, personality and style into their pieces. I view writing as a way to express myself, and if I am just writing the way someone else tells me to do word for word, it’s not my own piece. I think Ross is trying to explain that everyone should stay true to themselves when writing.

Lillian Ross: A Way of Writing

By Jeremy St. Clair 

The Lillian Ross essay was an interesting article. It gives the view of how a magazine writer approaches writing articles. Lillian Ross thinks of it as creating a short story. I do see how that’s the case since its taking some information and telling a story to people. She feels that it is more difficult than fiction because news articles are based on facts. She believes not to speculate on what people think, only write about ideas she knows are true. 

She has come up with certain guidelines for writing. She respects only writing about a person if they want her to. And she chooses to write about events and people that interest her or stuff she likes.   She decides also to take notes when doing this. When writing an article she want to be clear and straightforward.  The reason is, she said, you can’t be ambiguous in writing an article people will read. An article needs to be straightforward so the person can understand it. 

She also feels it’s good to take notes on a notepad. She tries to listen and write and if she can’t do both she just listens. This way she understand the meaning and context of what is being said.  For her also it is better to write and take notes than record.  She views a tape recorder as a lazy way of getting people to talk and feels it’s unrealistic and lifeless. She wants to listen to what people are saying and not have the recorder do it for her. Different reporters have different ways of writing articles and this shows how Lillian approaches writing.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lillian Ross: The Joy of Writing

By Roxanne Farina

In the beginning of “Letter From Lillian Ross,” the author mentions the saying “fly on the wall.” She states that someone once categorizes her “technique” of writing as a “fly on the wall.” According to Bill Shawn, her editor at The New Yorker magazine, some people call it a “silly and meaningless phrase,” and don’t realize the actual meaning of the expression. Each and every writer is different; they all have their own specific style of writing as well as their own area in which they write about. I especially liked the way Bill Shawn compared writer’s differences: every human being is different and they all have something, like writers, which makes them unique and their own.

There was one statement in the first paragraph that I was shocked by: “Today, there are journalism teachers who actually teach their students “to be a fly on the wall.” This statement jumped out at me, because after all the years of writing and English classes that I have taken, I have never once had a teacher force me to write a certain way. They have always let me be my own author and choose my own style of writing. I feel it’s important to let the student learn from their own mistakes and experiment with different styles of writing to allow them to choose which one they feel most comfortable with. Lillian chooses to “write only about people, situations, and events that appeal to her.” I feel this is a smart decision because the act of writing will come more natural when you are writing about a subject that interests you.

Another method she uses which I really admire is how she uses her “own judgment in deciding what to write. Just because someone ‘said it’ is no reason for me to use it.” Many reporters feel obligated to include everything the person they interview says, but I feel an experienced reporter, like Lillian, understands the difference and knows when to use/not use the information.

Another important point Lillian makes is, “anyone who trusts me enough to talk about himself is giving me a form of friendship.” I give Lillian a lot of respect and credibility because she doesn’t try to use someone’s story in order to get ahead in her career. Many reporters forget their code of ethics and morals when writing a story. They put their self before the person they are interviewing and try to make the story the best it can be, despite how damaging it may be to the person and their family.

Lillian also doesn’t use a tape recorder when she reports. I feel this is both good and bad because the point she makes is very true, but sometimes you physically cannot comprehend and take in what the person is saying so by having a tape recorder allows you to look back while creating a story. Lillian believes that “the machine distorts the truth.” I don’t agree with this statement because I feel the recorder is a very helpful tool that many journalists use on a daily basis.

All in all, I feel Lillian Ross is a very knowledgeable writer. After reading this letter I learned some new things about being a reporter, and how each person has their own unique style. Lillian’s style is definitely exclusive and she knows what she is talking about. She is also very good at what she does and she loves her job. She describes reporting as “a force that takes over, it makes the work seem delightfully easy and natural and supremely enjoyable.” One day I would like to describe my job the way Lillian describes hers.

Lillian Ross on Writing

By Toni Ann Buchalski

Reading “Letter from Lillian Ross” has taught me that journalism is not always what it's made out to be. Growing up I felt that all journalists and general members of the workforce held the same attitude toward their jobs. I assumed that most people just pushed themselves daily to succeed in maintaining a career and providing for their families. As I got older, I heard that you had to love your job in order to enjoy it. After reading this handout, I have added more knowledge to enhance my opinion.

In this letter Lillian Ross starts with an anecdote explaining how her techniques were referred to as “fly on the wall” work. Ross didn't agree with this because she had her own beliefs on what would or would not make for a more improved journalist. Her guidelines explain how she succeeded in the world of journalism, and that to be a good reporter one must stick to the simplicity of the story and not include unnecessary information. You have to be willing to respect a person's decision on whether to be written about or not. Respect is not only polite, but it will make for better reporting skills in the future.

Ross further explains that reporting is not just a career but also an obligation. It is an obligation to the public relying on your reporting. Reporting is a career where one must know their boundaries but also be willing to take risks. A reporter must always be prepared in any situation. Newsworthy events occur every day at the most random times and places. Taking careful notes and using your surroundings in a smart style is essential. A reporter must be willing to act efficiently and in a clever manner.

Lillian Ross is an experienced reporter. After reading her letter in regards to the rules for reporting, I feel that I'll be somewhat more prepared if I am to pursue a career in journalism in the future. Not only were her guidelines thoughtful, but in retrospect they were very straightforward and accurate. Most of the topics she referred to in the discussion were things that I didn't always have concern for. As a result, I've learned overall that good reporting takes not only skill but also determination and a desire to succeed in the eyes of the public and yourself.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lillian Ross' Guidelines

By Cinterra Lucas 

"Letter from Lillian Ross” was an insightful piece of writing that allowed me to learn a lot about her and myself as a journalist. Throughout this piece, Lillian described some of her do’s and don’ts as well as her preferences. In the first paragraph, she mentioned the phrase “fly on the wall” was used to describe the actions of a journalist. However, the phrase “fly on the wall” is a cliché and the phrase does not really describe the actions of journalists. I agree with Lillian, anyone who uses this term is “misguided” because a journalist is not a fly on a wall, a journalist is always present and everything that a journalist writes down is based on what they were told and not because they were being “a fly on the wall.”

Lillian went on further to explain her style of writing, which gave me some insight and assistance for my writing in the future. When Lillian writes her stories she follows a set of guidelines, which is what I found interesting because when I write I create an outline to help me maintain focus in what I am writing. Lillian uses guidelines as a set of rules for herself to follow when writing about others. When writing, Lillian wants to be simple and straightforward, which is something I can understand; no one wants to lose the reader’s attention. In order to prevent biased writing and a biased interview Lillian does not write about individuals she does not like, and that is something I would not do as well.

Lillian’s writing is based what occurs during her first encounter with a person; she believes just like anyone else that first impressions are what last longer and in some cases I can agree with her. When I meet someone, whether it be in general or for my writing, I will do my best to make sure I leave a good impression. Lillian also allowed me to understand that once a person admits you into their life to write about them you truly have to make it your responsibility to portray them through your writing in a good way. Sometimes individuals may pour their heart out to you in an interview and sometimes that is just because they are attached to you; it is up to you to make an ethical decision to decide whether you want to put what you encountered in your writing or not.

Many journalists have their own style of writing and based on what Lillian expressed it is best for you to define yourself as a journalist. This simply means try to find what best fits you as an individual and grow from that. I personally like to use a recorder when interviewing someone; however, it does have its advantages and disadvantages, as Lillian wrote. Lillian’s guidelines are beneficial to up and coming journalists like myself.

Lillian Ross: Not "A Fly On The Wall”

By Elizabeth Flores

They say people lose themselves when they become reporters; they lose the ability to understand the people they interview. In a recent article in an online magazine “The Daily Caller,” readers called a few reporters from ABC and the New York Times vultures. After reading the article I have to agree that they were acting like vultures in the way they treated people connected to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Reporters like this put to shame the reporting profession; it made reporters look like none of them have a sense of compassion for the victims of this tragedy.

Reading “Letter from Lillian Ross,” I realized what a real reporter is, someone with an impeccable ethical background who realizes that interviews are not only a way to get the story but a chance to shed some light on a subject’s individualism pertaining to their specific work. She wrote, “Fame and sensationalism alone are never appealing.” I agree that there needs to be more for a story to captivate its readers, a hook that reels the reader in, capturing their attention and interest. She said that when she writes a story sometimes she feels the need to create a short story with a beginning, middle, and an end, and I can understand that. The need to change situations and feelings just because we hold the pen and paper can be powerful but it is good writers who learn that it’s about the subject and their contribution to the story, not our interpretation of it.

I found her writing guidelines to be impressive and easy to follow. I believe that by following these guidelines she was able to grow as a reporter with every piece she wrote. From this reading I was able to learn that being a reporter starts with being a person first, understanding that it is a privilege to get any interview because reporters do not always have a right to them. It was inspiring for me to read this article because it gave me a different perspective than what we typically see reporters being portrayed as. It was so refreshing to read Lillian Ross’s perspective on the ways she interviews, the way she takes notes and her views on what makes a good story. The reading clearly portrays her love for what she does but also that she knows who she is as an individual and therefore understands her limitations; this is, in my opinion, what makes her a good reporter but an even more respectable individual.