We live in the unfortunate era of the Me-Me-Me, I-I-I journalist. But is it OK to break out the first person from time to time? And, if so, when? And how?
My one friend, a 40-year columnist at the Toronto Star, always takes a dig at me when I've written in the first person. He cites that the piece of advice he got from the paper's legendary old-timer Milt Dunnell (who started back in the 1920s) was the never-EVER-use-the-first-person line. "Cardinal rule." That sort of thing. My retort is that a lot of things have changed since the Roaring 20s--what went in the paper then wouldn't stand up now and vice versa. Not that I'm against rules per se but I think the handiest one is a suggestion I make to writers I've coached and edited: You can deploy the first-person so long as you're not the most important person in the story. A supporting role rather than the lead. The reader can see everything from your POV which is immediate and involved as opposed to one from the sidelines. An example that I used was this profile of Martin Strel, a Slovenian who swam the length of the Mississippi (Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico) as a tune-up to the Amazon. It's one thing to write about Martin from the boat but another to be swimming in his wake and if you give the readers that POV they're better for it. https://www.sportsnet.ca/more/martin-strel-distance-swimming-profile-big-read/
always loved the line about sunrises
Love this Substack. I was hesitant to subscribe but I thought how much I really enjoy your podcast so I said what the hell and so far it’s been great. Question: what do you read? Books? Certain writers? Other journalists? Favorites? Thanks