Column: Students Remind Me Why I Love Being a Journalist
Owings Mills-Reisterstown Patch Editor Marc Shapiro tells the stories behind his stories to journalism students at Owings Mills High School.
Some questions I expected: Why did I decide to become a journalist? What do I like to write about the most? Where has journalism taken me in my travels?
And, I was happy to tell the students in Marty McCormick's journalism class at Owings Mills High School about getting hooked on editorial writing in high school, my love of feature and music writing and my trip to Australia with 79 other college journalists in 2007.
But, I really got revved up when they asked me about my most memorable stories.
Some stories were the most fun to write, some were the toughest to write, but they’ve all left long-lasting impressions on me.
There was that time I interviewed funk forefather George Clinton, and I’m pretty sure I woke him up from a nap. There was that other time that Norma McCorvey, better known as Jane Roe in Roe v. Wade, hung up on me after I challenged her transition from pro-choice pioneer to pro-life activist.
I will never, ever, forget the time I interviewed a very drunk Zakk Wylde, one of my guitar idols who was playing with Ozzy Osbourne at the time. He was with his bandmates and crew on his way to see The Rolling Stones, and I joined the party briefly via phone. He took almost none of my questions seriously, told me about how he created owls, found the cure for polio and got musical advice from Christopher Columbus. That one was fun.
The piece that haunted me the most was one about a teenager who was stabbed to death with his own knife in a robbery gone wrong.
Calvin Stewart, who lived with his family in a low-income neighborhood in Severn, MD, was a big brother, a perfect son and caring neighbor. To a friend who survived the incident, he was an accomplice in crime.
I found myself sitting in the living room of his home with his mother and siblings the night after he died. I had to break the news to them that police said he initiated the robbery and was stabbed with his own knife in the scuffle.
Painting the picture of who Calvin was is still one of the most challenging pieces I’d ever written. (No link exists, unfortunately).
One student asked me about how to be at ease during interviews, and while I can’t recall any terribly uncomfortable times, I definitely needed a few minutes to adjust to my surroundings when I arrived at Java Divas in Pasadena while working for another publication. I was greeted at this drive-through coffee stand by a girl wearing a full dominatrix outfit and a scantily clad nurse. You'll have to read the story to find out more.
For all of these reasons, the funny times, the uncomfortable times, the sad times, I love being a journalist. I want to thank Ms. McCormick’s journalism class for asking some great questions and accompanying me on this walk down memory lane.
If you’d like Marc Shapiro to speak at your school, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.