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.