Isabelle Roughol – The J junkie

The tribulations of a young journalist and writer looking for work

The court, the jail and the toy factory

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Another long day in court, and I don’t have the strength to write much more than a stream of consciousness, a bit like NPR’s Radio Lab, which I am now discovering and I sense will fast become a deliciously guilty pleasure. The way the editing mirrors the thought process of a human brain is a gem of storytelling. Try it, get converted.

So, long day in court. Law & Order never told me closing arguments could last that long. I was expecting a handful of minutes of eloquent bliss; I got four hours of legalia. It wasn’t uninteresting though, and I came out with a story I think I’ll add to my portfolio. Court stories are where you really sense the necessity of having an editor. At first, I wrote the story with pretty much all the accusation’s arguments up top and then the defense’s replies. After my editor gave it a first read, she had me move some paragraphs around, and a much more balanced story came out without changing a single word. (Ok I’m exaggerating, I probably added a “but” and a “she said” here and there.) It doesn’t read in the order the trial took place, or even in the order one would naturally think of the story (not everyone is RadioLab), but I think it does read logically and fairly. It might even read like I wrote it in this order in the first place. You be the judge.

On a side note, I have noticed that I am widely improving at rewrites. I used to lay my thoughts on paper in one stream of consciousness (sounds familiar?) and be incapable of editing. Not as much anymore. Bless training.

Speaking of blessing, tomorrow is the good ole “God Bless America” day, and as I’ve been doing every single year, I will be working. I don’t despair to one day do the whole grill-up-a-burger, blow-up-fireworks-in-your-face extravaganza, but it just always turns out that the girl who’s thousands of miles away from family is free on holidays. Last year, I worked Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and Thanksgiving. For my French readers who are used to more generous calendars, yes, these are pretty much the only holidays Americans get to not show up at work.

I will leave you with a link I was saving for a day when I’d lack inspiration. It’s a running joke around the J school that there’s nothing better to jumpstart your career than to spend some time in prison. Robbing a 7Eleven probably isn’t the way to go, but stand up for the First Amendment and you’re golden. It didn’t work for Judith Miller, but she pushed her luck a bit. It worked for Joshua Wolf, whom no one knew last year and is now the sole candidate for this year’s First Amendment Award from SPJ. No offense to Wolf: I wore the button, joined the Facebook group and wholeheartedly support SPJ’s Legal Defense Group. In fact, all you people who make more money than I do should think of donating. (On another sidenote, Victor Roberto, past-president of SPJ’s MU chapter, is also in line for an SPJ award for “outstanding graduate.” Frankly, everyone at MU thinks he’s outstanding, and he’s worked hard for our chapter. It would help if those SPJ members amongst you who might know him would provide a testimonial to his qualities.)

So back to great journalistic principles and doing time for them, I wonder if serving it with Thomas the Tank Engine qualifies you for the award. (Apologies, TimesSelect required.) This guy, whom I had already noted for his witty tales of Chinese manufacturers awkwardly trying to evade journalists, was actually locked up in a toy factory for nine hours, accused of commercial spying, when he tried to report on the toy factory that put lead paint on toys that were likely to end up in children’s mouth – or up their nose.

”How do I know you’re really from The New York Times?” he said. ”Anyone can fake a name card.”

Thus began our interrogation, which was followed by hours of negotiations, the partial closing of the factory complex and the arrival of several police cars, a handful of helmet-wearing security officers and some government officials, all trying to free an American journalist and his colleagues from a toy factory.

Ensued an epic battle where Robin Williams, his robot sister, a teddy bear and a plastic goose fought off the evil general with his miniature war machines. It didn’t?

This concludes tonight’s stream of consciousness.

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Written by Isabelle Roughol

Wednesday, 4 July, 2007 at 03:02

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