Telling True Stories: Part VII:

Source:,  By: Vernon Doucette

By: Vernon Doucette

Emily Heistand: On Style:
  1. Embody ideas in the nature of language: Language is not a conveyor belt trundling a cargo of something else called “the idea” but is itself integral to the idea. Poets— those pure research scientists in the laboratory of language— might say that language is entirely the idea. But even in prose, whatever else our words mean to convey, the nature of the language is itself a mighty signal.
  2. Restore worn-out words: The most current meanings of words only skim the surface; as any time with the Oxford English Dictionary reveals, each word is a house of history.
  3. Take an art class: Much of what artists learn in school is how to see: how to look at the world free of the abstracting preconceptions and the myriad simplifications that we form in order to navigate life.

  5. Use concrete detail: The mind develops in response to sensory experience and because our intelligence is so multifaceted.
  6. Compose the pace: The pace can be in alignment with the subject— moving glacially for the slowed-down time of grief— or can counter the subject.
  7. Experiment with form: Perhaps narrative is at once daring and humble in the way that science is— offering provisional truths, saying in essence: This is the best story we can tell now, based on limited knowledge.
  8. Cultivate your own style: “You don’t just go out and pick a style off a tree one day. “The tree is already inside you. It is growing naturally inside you.” – Dexter Gordon.

Telling True Stories: Part VI:



Roy Peter Clark

The Line Between Fact and Fiction:

The line between fact and fiction in America, between what is real and made up, is blurring. The move in journalism toward infotainment invites just such confusion, as news becomes entertainment and entertainment becomes news. Deals in which editor Tina Brown joins the forces of a news company, Hearst, with a movie studio, Miramax, to create a magazine that would blend reporting and script writing are only the latest headlines signaling the blending of cultures. . . 

Tom Rosenstiel, of the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Basic principles to help journalists navigate the waters between fact and fiction- by Clark:

  • Don’t add, Don’t Deceive.
  • Be unobtrusive.
  • Avoid using anonymous sources.
  • Never put something in your story that hasn’t been checked out.

Though this is a work of nonfiction, I have taken certain storytelling liberties, particularly having to do with the time of events. Where the narrative strays from strict nonfiction, my intention has been to remain faithful to the characters and to the essential drift of events as they really happened.” John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Freedom With Handcuffs

After listening to Prof. Thomas Bass‘s speech about media and censorship, I wrote this story about my own experience with censorship and the media in Egypt.

My Experience with Censorship and Media in Egypt

Egyptian Newspapers

I always knew that the government was controlling the media in Egypt, because no news or talk shows had ever opposed or attacked the president, the ministers or any other official. Activists who were calling for freedom had ended up in jail. Opposition talk shows had been stopped from airing. And private newspapers were shut down. But I had never cared or was interested in expressing my opinion or condemning these practices.


Then came the revolution, I was in my last year in high school. I was really excited and hoped that the brave actions of the Egyptian youth would succeed in gaining freedom and democracy for the country. However, at this life-changing moment which would determine Egypt’s future, Egyptian media showed their true ugly face.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

They demonized the young protesters, praised the president and his government, who paid their salary, and frightened the citizens with fake and exaggerated stories about the disastrous consequences and the complete destruction of the country if the revolution succeeded and the president had to leave. This was the main strategy the media followed. They even blocked out news about the Tunisian revolution, so Egyptian would not get any ideas of starting their own revolution. They were so ignorant that they did not pay attention to the increasing use and impact of social media and especially Facebook. Egyptians were already following their Tunisian brothers and sisters in their fight for a free and just future.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So Tunisia succeeded, and Egyptians came to realize that an Arab president could leave without the country falling into inescapable chaos. The youth started sharing invitations on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube calling for the people to gather and march in the streets, not to topple the president, but to demand their basic rights to a decent life, food, and justice. They chose Jan. 25, 2011 to be the day to protest. The significance of the day was that it is the Police day when the president gives a speech and celebrates the great achievements of the policemen. Nevertheless, for the people it was a reminder that policemen are supposed to protect the government and to keep citizens under control. A reminder of the brutality and the unfair treatment citizens get from policemen.

A week before Jan. 25, 2011, media started their reports about how happy people were and that they were preparing for the celebration and the speech. In the first days of the revolution, all media was doing was denying the occurrence of the protests. They were denying the youth’s efforts to urge people to demand change. Nevertheless, when people in their homes realized the contradiction between the news on television and newspapers and the live news on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, media started promoting rumors accusing protesters of being trained and paid for by foreign agencies to destroy the country.

Although police shot the peaceful protesters with tear gas, rubber bullets and real guns, media did not count the deaths or report them. All they said was that the great Egyptian police had succeeded in killing some terrorists who were disturbing the public. With the never-ending lies and the confusing contradiction of the news, some people, who were observing the situation from their homes, decided to go and see for themselves what was actually happening. Most people stopped watching national media channels and started following the news on social networks, Al- Jazeera, or foreign media channels including CNN and BBC. For 18 days, media continued to lie, trying to decrease the public support to the revolution.

Then on Feb.11, 2011, the vice president at the time announced the resignation of Mubarak and that he was letting the army rule the country. People cheered up and celebrated all night long, for they had finally toppled a dictator who had ruled for more than 30 years. However, media was celebrating too. They changed their aggressive attacks on the protesters and praised their great determination and their brave fight for democracy and a free future. From that moment on, I never trusted national media.

“Be The Change You Want To See In The World.” – Gandhi

When I started college in September 2011, I chose to be a journalist. However, I wanted to study the real ethics, values, and practices of journalism, so I and my classmates in the department can be the new credible beginning of journalism after the revolution. Although, the revolution is not as successful as I thought it would be, and it did not bring the change that I hoped for, I decided never to work for a national media channel. I will try to work hard to report the truth and tell what is actually happening there.


Telling True Stories III

Tomas Alex Tizon:

Is an American author and a Pulitzer Prize winner. He contributed to Newsweek and 60 Minutes. He was also the bureau chief of LA Times.
Writing a profile is documenting someone’s life. As unique as you believe your life is, others think the same way about their lives as well. I found his four points to consider interesting and gave me a new perspective and a new point of view when thinking about profiles.

  1. Your Subject is as COMPLICATED as You Are
  2. Your Subject Carries a BURDEN as Heavy as Yours
  3. Your Subject WANTS Something
  4. Your Subject is Living an EPIC STORY

Malcolm Gladwell:

“One reason I don’t write profiles of people is that I believe we are incapable of truly describing a person’s core… People are more complicated than our profiles of them reflect.” – The Limits of Profiles

“Though we are incapable of getting all of a person’s essence, I do believe we can get at pieces of someone’s personality. That’s enough!”

Melissa Fay Greene:

Has contributed to The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, Readers Digest, Life, MS, Newsweek, The Wilson Quarterly, Parade, Redbook, Parenting, HuffingtonPost, Salon, TheDailyBeast, and
She has five books:

“No one asked us to be keepers of the flame of history; we’ve taken it on ourselves. When we choose to write nonfiction, our first commitment is not to be readable or to educate or to curry favor with our readers. It is to be as accurate as possible.”

Telling True Stories Part 3:

There are various genres that journalists can follows to write their stories. It is important to follow the ethics and rules of journalism and to find your own style and your own voice.

Food for Thought

I was not very interested in following the news until the Arab Spring started in 2011. Now, I care about updating myself with the events everyday. Moreover, being here in the US, made me more interested in reading and comparing news coverage in America, Europe and western countries in general and how they are covered in the Arab countries and the Middle East. Facebook is my main source, in which I follow different publications’ pages like the

I also saw this video that was made by the Egyptian Canadian Coalition for Democracy. It sums up a lot about the Egyptian Revolution.

Following the events that happened in France and the escalation in Europe especially Germany, I read this interesting article in The Blog on the Huffington Post UK website. It was written by a British Muslim student responding to the 25,000 anti- Islam protesters in Germany. More interestingly was the article in The Daily Beast entitled “For Republicans, Muslims Will Be the Gays of 2016.” I would really recommend that to everyone.

It is ironic to see how governments use stereotypes, exaggerate them and use them for their own benefits and simply mislead people, with the help of media of course. Nevertheless, it is really frustrating that people know of their government’s deceiving methods, yet they still fall for them willingly.

I also read this article in a magazine produced by the Times Union called 518 Life. The article discussed Activism in the Capital Region by Brianna Snyder. For me, it reminded me with the Arab Spring, as its fourth anniversary just started in the mid of January 2015.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I do not read a specific book, and I do not follow a certain writer, I read whatever my eye falls on and interest me. At the same time, I try to read from both sides in whatever story I read.