I’ve been fortunate to write three articles for a website called World Soccer Talk. All three of those have garnered response, most of which is mixed. But my most recent was the worst of all in terms of negative feedback. I wrote an article which was meant to read as a request for respect of domestic laws in Russia for the 2018 World Cup. The laws are widely seen as “anti-gay” as they request that people don’t display pro-gay propaganda. Unfortunately this is a hot, hot topic, and as respectful as I attempted to be in writing the piece (and I could have done better,) it was seen as bigoted, ignorant, naïve, etc. Probably fair, as some of my points were a bit naïve, and my logic a bit flawed. But this latest post and the backlash I (and unfortunately, the website, as people were swearing they wouldn’t come back after my post) have felt has pushed me toward writing this.
I’ve learned a few things from my very little time in journalism.
- Do your homework. This will play into my next point, but seriously, as a journalist, if you don’t do your research and know what you’re talking about, people can tell. If your logic is flawed, people will pick up on it like a shark picks up on blood in the water. If you don’t know exact figures and facts—such as where a player used to play, how much a player was bought/sold for, why a law was passed—people will rip you apart. Now this is obviously a bigger stage for journalists than perhaps for the average layman, but it never hurts to know your facts and figures for things, be thorough and meticulous in what you’re talking about. Our world doesn’t like people who are ignorant and opinionated without knowing their stuff. As a consequence…
- Speak with conviction. If you don’t believe something, don’t say it. If you’re not sold on something, and if you can’t back up what you say, it may be best that you don’t say it. There’s nothing more humiliating than when you’re up a creek because you’ve said something you’re unsure of and someone tears you apart for it, leaving you without a defense. That’s not to say that people can’t disagree with you, but be ready for it, and be willing to defend your position. People respect that.
- Have a spine. I’m especially bad about this. I find it ironic that I’m the world’s biggest people pleaser, and yet I aspire to a career of ministry and possibly some interspersed journalism. Both are careers in which you have to tell people things they may not want to hear and on a regular basis won’t agree with. At some point, I have to learn to have a spine and realize that not everyone is going to agree with me. But if I follow #1 and #2, then I guess I’ll be okay. I can only control my own opinion.
- Things get better. In the first 5 or 6 hours after I posted that article, the most backlash occurred. I got on and read the comments and my heart started pounding. I don’t like being not liked. But it’s died down, and I haven’t seen a new comment in a while. Now granted, if and when my writing gets on a bigger stage, it will circulate longer, and there will undoubtedly be more backlash, but eventually things die down, and as long as you don’t mess up bad (like that guy who accused Albert Pujols of using PEDs) you’ll be alright.
Just a few quick lessons on life I’ve learned from journalism.