What the hell have I gotten myself into?
That’s what I questioned, exasperated and confused, when one of my mentors picked up the phone. Even on the opposite end of the continent, he could tell I was panicked and responded with the slow, confident voice I needed to hear. “Tell me about another time you felt uncertain on day one” he asked wisely. Examples abounded. “Has your gut ever been wrong?” he asked. No, not on matters like this. “Tell me why you signed up for this; why journalism?” I paused.
The industry of medicine is engrained in dogma, fixed in many of its beliefs, and takes a conservative approach to change. For those who work in, and depend on, modern healthcare delivery, challenging perceived truths and brining public light to the untold stories of those with soft voices is daunting if not impossible.
Equipped with training in communications and journalism, I hope to develop a sharp ability to ask important questions, to report on issues that are counterintuitive, and to prompt people to think differently.
Easier said than done. We continued to flush out my discontent, acknowledging that while “Man Bites Dog!” is an interesting story, it doesn’t tell us anything about dog bites. But there are other stories, deeper stories, about problems that affect us all. Or maybe they don’t, but they could. Or maybe they couldn’t, but you really want to know about them. Or maybe you don’t, but I want you to. Maybe that’s enough. To walk away in April knowing how to spot the important stories, how to build an emotional connection with those I report on and express those emotions those I report to, so that what seems important to me seems important to you.
“You’re not the guy who stitches up someones head and goes home” said my mentor. “To be a great physician, you need to advocate for a better society. Reporting is one way for you to do that.”
I guess we all have mentors for a reason.
So I now realize why I came home deeply dissatisfied with my day. I was worried about writing about things that were fleeting and inconsequential, like so many of the news articles I read this morning while sipping a tea on the GO train. But there are important stories, stories that matter, happening all around me. Our constant need for order forces us, as individuals, organizations and societies to apply preconceived and convenient truths to aggregate populations. Whole populations fall through the cracks of conventional discussion. By digging deep, voices can rise up, trees lost in the forrest.
“Why journalism” he asked me again.
“Because… I trust my gut.”