As a strategic-level analyst, I'm trained to write a certain way for a certain audience. In fact, I had been writing for the military and a state government for so long that, when I made the transition to writing for the general public, I had no idea where to start. I got some good advice and bought the Associated Press Style Guide, found some great writers in different areas, and tried to mimic their style as much as possible.
Still, I don't fancy myself a journalist or reporter in any sense of the word. As you may have read in my previous blog post, my job is to take what they write and try to make sense out of it. That doesn't mean that I don't occasionally envy what they do...the danger, the excitement, and the up-closeness of it all.
On a recent trip to San Diego, I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of hours with the US Border Patrol taking a tour of the border area between Otay Mesa and San Ysidro. I've been writing about the southwest border for the better part of six years, but never from an on-the-ground perspective. It was so amazing, and I was peppering my Border Patrol Agent and public affairs representative hosts with questions for almost the entire two hours.
Afterwards, my imagination kicked into high gear. I pictured myself traveling to other parts of the border and asking cops and regular people what they thought about border security and the war going on next door. I imagined possibly risking my life by crossing into war zones like Ciudad Juárez or Reynosa to see and hear and smell. I thought about sweaty and scruffy American reporters just out of journalism school and hungry for a big scoop, trying to fit in at some Mexican dive bar and praying he'd find a real-life narco who would talk to him without wanting to kill him later.
Then I crashed back to reality, reminding myself that that's not my job, or my life, and I'm actually okay with that. There are plenty of wonderful books out there by journalists who have done those things, like Charles Bowden, Ioan Grillo, Ed Vulliamy, and Malcolm Beith. Occasionally I tire of reading about the drug war because it's mentally exhausting after a while. Like now, I'm taking a break and really getting into celebrity memoirs and true accounts of significant stories, like the 33 miners trapped in Chile and Jaycee Dugard's kidnapping. But I'm never away from the drug war for long. I'm just happy that my fleeting appetite for danger and action can be satiated by some great authors who take those risks on my and other readers' behalf.
Causes Sylvia Longmire Supports
National Multiple Sclerosis Society
The Wounded Warrior Project