Regrets and Reflections

Things I’ve learned the hard way

Science and Travel Writer and Photographer Alyssa Grace

Who knew that cats could be such a controversial topic? Apparently, every writer at Ke Kalahea but me. This story was a “hot potato,” as our advisor Tiffany once said, since Fall 2016. As a science writer, I approached this topic neutrally - and according to some, I was not successful.

Now, all because of this one short article - which appeared in the last issue of Ke Kalahea - I have someone who seems to really dislike me. So here is my insider’s look to you my dear readers of the whole process on news writing and how difficult it was for me to get this one just right.

I started this journey with two leads from someone who knew the story well. From there, I received further recommendations on who to contact. I contacted them all. By the time my deadline for a story hit, only three people had contacted me back.

One of my three sources wanted to be anonymous. Since I started writing at the newspaper three semesters ago, we’ve always been strongly encouraged not to use anonymous sources. So when I finally encountered one, I messed up.

I oversimplified the information my anonymous source gave me. I had simply used it as background information, when really there was much more that could have been used and quoted: for example, “I never want to see another dead poisoned cat in the trash.” I protected my source, and I inadvertently hid from my readers from some gruesome imagery.

My second mistake? I remained neutral in the face of an issue that is incredibly heated and emotional for many. In my attempt to hide my own voice, my only two other sources dominated the article. I should have contacted more people. I should’ve asked for help. Instead, with my deadline looming, I wrote what I could with what little information I had.

So here’s what I’ve learned: Don’t publish on a heated issue with missing sides. Especially if this is an emotional issue, make sure it is the most thorough article you’ve ever written, deadlines be damned. In public outlets like this one, your reputation is always on the line and you don’t always know how your words will affect others and their lives. And make sure you fully understand the biases of all your sources.

I understand why you’re upset, red sharpie reader, and I’m sorry. That being said, I’ve learned greatly from this mess on how I can and will be a better writer, and how to deal with others’ emotions in the face of adversity. (And I hope to never have to write about cats ever again.)

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.