“Learn to embrace rejection as part of the gig. Keep writing, pitching and reading.” This is a quote from American journalist Michael Hastings. Hastings’ words summarise my experience with Wikinews and my attempts to “break into” the world of journalism. Prior to my participation in JOUR311, I had successfully published my articles in a few different publications. I had barely experienced rejection and believed that I had a firm foot in the journalism world with my little (I didn’t believe it was little at the time) experience.
The vigorous reviewing process of Wikinews however, shined light on a darker, harsher and more realistic slice of journalism.This light reflects the increasingly competitive world of journalism, where the publishing process has remained difficult to ensure accurate, ethical and interesting stories are produced for readers. Allan Bell explains that journalists and editors mould, modify and produce stories with viewpoints, values and structures that transform these articles into stories. With citizen journalism dominating online media, major journalism websites work hard to ensure that their content is different, better and more important to the public, and I believe that they do this through vigorous editing processes. It is through my gained understanding of this process that I understand the criticism received from Wikinews reviewers and the strenuous reviewing process. It however, does not change the eye-opening and discouraging experience of my first Wikinews article review.
My first attempt at publishing on Wikinews was eye-opening and at the time, earth shattering. I worked hard in class to research and compile an article about a threat of a terrorist attack on Islamabad. I had my article reviewed by a peer and my tutor and therefore thought it was ready for publication. Attempting to navigate the Wikinews website and learn the style of their article expectations was a challenge but it was one that I thought I met with some competency.
After submitting my article for review however, I was proved wrong on every single account. I was receptive to feedback and even enjoyed receiving it, but I had never been given a clean rejection. Rachel Bartlett wrote about the importance of feedback as a measure of success for journalists and looking back now, I understand that any feedback, whether it is harsh or friendly, is valuable feedback for a budding journalist.
My story and writing were criticised on every level possible and I remember feeling complete shock, emptiness and depression. It was a tough stab at something I loved. Reflecting on my reaction now, I can relate it to the five stages of grief.
- Denial and Isolation: I closed myself off in my room, sat and stared at my laptop screen for a good ten minutes.
- Anger: I began looking up this reviewer’s name, in search for their credentials with what felt like steam blowing out of my ears, nose and probably even eyes.
- Bargaining: I began to question my own skills and experience, I thought that maybe what I wrote really was rubbish. I blamed Wikinews for their confusing style and my university for the lack of experience in this area.
- Depression: This stage had two parts for me. During the first part, I was significantly worried about my future career and thought that this was just a sign of what was to come for me. The second part was a lot lighter and involved me engaging in an uncontrollable fit of laughter.
- Acceptance: I took a deep breath, read through the comments one more time and set out, more determined than ever to fix each part of my article until it was published on Wikinews.
It may seem over the top, but I had never had my writing criticised like that and the smile on my face when it was published, on the front page, could not have been wider. To this day, I refer to that moment as one of the proudest and best in my studies and upcoming journalism career. It not only taught me strength and acceptance but also perseverance, which is essential for a journalist in today’s dog-eat-dog media world.
For a journalism student, it’s all about trying to stand out in a dog-eat-dog world.