Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Words Matter Week Day 3

What is your favorite quote about words. Why?

Words - so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

Were any truer words ever spoken?

We’ve all heard the expression “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Lies! All lies!

I don’t care who you are. If someone says something awful about you – either behind your back or to your face – it will hurt.

Take the example of the child who is always told he’s a screw up. Before you know it, that’s exactly what he becomes.

On the other hand, a child who is always given words of encouragement will usually grow up to be proud of himself and strive to make something of his life.

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy and one psychologists have proven time and time again.

As a journalist, I know the power of the written word first-hand. I know that every time I write an article, I must stop and think about how that person, business, organization is going to sound to the reader. Do I want to show this is basically a good person or is it someone who the community should be warned about?

Years ago, I was given an assignment to look into a company that was thinking of moving into the area. They had scoped out the local folks and were asking them to invest in their business. When I attended the public meeting, something didn’t sit quite right with me, so I started investigating.

I found out these people made it a habit of scamming average folks across the country by promising them fortunes for investing in their companies. Depending where they were located, they offered different products. As soon as they sold enough stock, they declared bankruptcy and made off with the money.

I wrote the story and within a few hours, I was receiving phone calls from across the country from people who were also being asked to invest with this company, although the businesses were all slightly different.

I also received a call from the president of the company. He actually praised me on my article, saying I had somehow managed to get all the facts straight … even though he would never admit it to anyone else.

That article and the investigation meant many ordinary folks were saved from losing their life savings. It made me feel good. It was a lot of work, but I’d do it all again if it meant protecting the people I work with, go to church with, see at the grocery store, etc.

After all, if we – as journalists – can’t use our words to inform and help our own communities, why write them at all?

(Note: The picture is the dictionary I regularly use for my own writing. That and the AP Style Guide!)

1 comment:

Lindsay said...

"if we – as journalists – can’t use our words to inform and help our own communities, why write them at all"

I really love this quote.

As a journalist, it's important to consider the implications our words can have and sometimes you have to write words that you know will illicit negative feedback.