The night before one of my stories will be published in the paper, I can't sleep. I lie there, awake, and my heart races and my mind spins its wheels. They spin in the fear that I have somehow misrepresented a person or an issue, and they can't get traction - I can't move on.
The burden of representing the truth is a burden I think many of us reporters often overlook. I suppose I'm thankful for the awareness I have about this responsibility, although I wish the weight of it wouldn't come down on me while I'm trying to sleep. I've tried to be anxious about stories earlier in the evening so I can get over it by bedtime, but so far that hasn't worked.
My latest story is a representation of an undecided voter, someone I've met with three times now for hours at a time. We discuss his political views (I keep mine to myself), we talk about what he watches and reads, and he tells me about his native country, Argentina.
One word: change. We think we need change. Let's keep in perspective that our politicians don't offer voters money for their votes, our police don't hold us up for our money, and we don't have a long history of complete corruption and international debt.
Throughout our conversations, I have come to have enormous respect for Miguel, someone who takes his responsibility, as a voter, to choose the best presidential candidate very seriously. He has no ingrained opinions about Democrats or Republicans, no family history in US politics to persuade him, no love or hatred for either party. He reads, listens, and weighs the issues according to what the candidates say about them.
In my story I am representing a complex individual with a rich history very different than my own, and I'm doing it in 6-8 inches.
So I can't sleep.
If you're reading this soon after I write it, the story will probably still be on the homepage of the Columbia Missourian. Otherwise, read here: Undecided Voters