Tackling a sensitive topic

“What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.”
Samuel Johnson

I am one of those writers who agonizes over the words I type.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a short, snappy blurb or a long, 2,000-word feature story.

If it’s going to have my byline on it – and even if it doesn’t, actually – I am not going to half-ass it.
I’m not the type of person who would do that with anything I’m involved in, much less the very thing I make my living doing.

Sure, some articles are easier to write than others, and yes, there are articles about things that I have interest in, but there is many, many others that I don’t – those are the ones that sometimes push me (and my sanity) to edge.
Truth be told, those are the ones that excite me the most as a writer.

Case in point: This week’s cover story of The Weekender.

The cover of the Weekender's Jan. 26 issue.

When my editor suggested that we look into the seemingly bad attitudes of the residents of Northeastern Pennsylvania, I knew it would be a challenging write. I knew it might touch some nerves, and I knew it would certainly be something that would allow me to get a little more investigative than I usually am, which is always something I’m up for.

The idea stemmed just from interactions we’ve had in the area, from anonymous callers with an ax to grind and seeing grimacing faces of passersby as we walk to get lunch to the angry grocery-store cashier.

I spoke with a local resident, a former TV anchor/county spokesperson who is now a freelance TV anchor in New York City, a talk radio host and a sociology/history professor.

Speaking to these people really opened my eyes and made me see that some of these behaviors stem from when coal mining was king in Northeastern Pa., and from everything from the political landscape and the economy to getting that long red light every day on the way to work. There’s also that part of it could be the proverbial “Angry White Guy Syndrome.” Some sources even compared and contrasted NEPA to other areas like New York, whose residents have often been described as abrupt or abrasive (an attitude I’ve never seen in all the time I spend there).

Sure, coal isn’t to blame for everything and might not have had a direct affect on residents, and yes, many people in NEPA aren’t angry or pissed off – they might even be, say what? content? – but we’ve seen enough people who are to warrant doing the story.

And I’m glad we did, and I’m glad I wrote it. It made me understand my neighbors a little better – and made me recognize some behaviors within myself that are no longer acceptable.

You can read the story here.
Whether you live in NEPA, New York or elsewhere, I’d love to see what you have to say on the matter and welcome your thoughts here at Ink for Blood.



About nikkimmascali

I am an editor, writer and New Yorker who has ink for blood and the blog name + tattoo to prove it. Also of note: I follow more dogs than people on Instagram. This is my blog about reading, writing and absolutely no 'rithmetic because I am horrendous at math.
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