Sometimes, I write stories where I feel I have so much more to tell, but not the space to tell it. Deadlines and word limits can sometimes prevent me from adding in all the little details that I wish I could. I’m still proud of my stories and they’re still factual, but there isn’t always room for elaboration.
I’ve always been a fan of literary journalism, which combines factual reporting with the writer’s observations and personal perspective. Usually, the writer will immerse themselves in the subject for weeks or months, writing down every detail they observe. The essay “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” is a perfect example of literary journalism. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend that you do. It’s available for free online.
I said all of this because literary journalism is not my job 99 percent of the time. My job as a reporter in a news capacity is to report the facts without flourish or finesse. Sure, I’m allowed some creative legroom when I write feature stories, but my other stories have to be written objectively — free of my voice and thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, I’m just saying that kind of writing isn’t my favorite kind to do.
For example: This week, I had the opportunity to attend a ceremony at Hurlburt Field after 20 Special Tactics airmen completed an 830-mile ruck march from Texas. While watching them walk to the main gate, I watched as two little boys ran up to them, extending their hands to get high-fives. I saw the airmen laugh as they obliged and gave the boys thumbs up as the kids yelled “thank you” and “good job!” At the ceremony, I teared up as the crowd honored the 20 Special Tactics airmen who have died since Sept. 11, 2001. My heart broke as members of those families walked down the center aisle, with tears streaming down their faces. I swelled with love and pride for my country when I was surrounded by military members as the National Anthem played. My fingers went numb from the cold as I took notes during the ceremony. I got nervous butterflies when I interviewed the Chief of Staff for the Air Force.
But none of that was in my story. And that’s OK, it wasn’t about me. But I wish I could have expressed the patriotism and camaraderie I saw. It didn’t matter if it was a commanding officer, a spouse, a child or someone from a different military branch. Everyone was there out of respect for those who laid down their lives so that we can continue to live out our own “American Dream.” I don’t think I’ll ever be at a point where I can accurately describe something like that, but I’m sure gonna try.
Sheri Kotzum is a reporter for The Destin Log. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 315-4353.