The reporter and the barber
“Your thoughts on something are best explained in metaphors for it shows genuine understanding of your feelings to others because only those who understand will get it.”
In other words, use metaphors to convey messages.
Picture this scenario.
You are a teenager who just started to learn that you can get girls with better grooming. You’re a boy. And you care so much about your hairstyle. You talk about hairstyle with your friends. You talk about hairstyle with your maids. You even talk about hairstyle with your cat.
Then one day, you find out that one of your friends has a bad taste in hairstyling. Like a good boy you are, you are concerned about him not being the handsome dude that he should be, had it not for his hair.
This friend of yours doesn’t know where to go. He is clueless. He doesn’t know which barbershop to visit.
So you introduce your friend to your barber and you left him in his shop.
You left him there.
Your friend then talks to your barber and wants the barber to cut the latest hairstyle.
The problem is that your barber is a very boring, old man. He is over 70 years old and has a hearing problem. He occasionally watches TV and barely listens to the latest trend around the world.
The barber is so old that his concern is just to make a living by paying monthly rent to the landowner.
Here’s the hint:
You; the reporter, is the person who introduces the friend to the barber.
Your friend; who is your barber’s new client, is your source. He is your article. He is your story. He is the people you interviewed. He is the man or woman or manager or minister or business entrepreneur that you met and had conversations with. He is your life.
Meanwhile, the barber; he is your editor who holds the fate of your friend’s hairdo. But mind you, he is very old.
When you left your friend (the source) alone with your grandpa barber (editor) in the barbershop, your friend is bound to be disappointed.
This is because your barber doesn’t know your friend. It is the first time they met. Your barber (editor) will definitely do not know what your friend (the source) is talking about.
Your friend (the source) will request the latest hairstyle from your barber (editor). Your friend wants a haircut just like one of the character in the Korean Tv Show Running Man; Gary.
Your barber (editor) is confused now because he doesn’t know what your friend (source) really wants.
Fortunately, the barber (editor) knows your handphone number. So when the barber phones you (reporter), you pick it up and you will him about what your friend really wants.
Your friend (source i.e. your article) will talk in length; in 10 to 20 paragraphs; in between 400 – 900 words; and in the language that you and your friend only know.
You left the barber in a maze. Your friend wants the barber to have “a Mohawk hairstyle but not too short.”
Your barber (editor) knows what a Mohawk is. However, he heard about the hairstyle few ages ago. He wanted to know whether the hairstyle has returned. The barber was puzzled about this request. He wanted to know more about any new trend following this particular hairstyle.
At this point of time, the barber (editor) thought that it’s best to call you (reporter) again on this matter.
You, as the reporter, have to provide as much background stories as possible about your friend (source).
In a newsroom, you have to back up your stories with past articles; information from reliable websites; latest development; recent follow-ups; recognised statistics and even recent hansard.
You need to provide information useful to your editor as this can reduce the time spent in editing.
You cannot just leave your Indian friend, who only speaks Tamil and English, to talk with a barber from Sarawak.
You cannot just leave your editor and expect him to understand if your source is not reliable; if your story is incomplete; if your story is stupid; and if your story is just not a story.
Going back to the metaphor story in the barbershop, your barber (editor) gets back to cut your friend’s hair (story editing process).
When your barber (editor) is half way shaving the hair at the back of your friend’s head, he finds out that your friend’s hair has dandruff.
Your friend may be allergic to some kind of condition. Your friend’s condition may get worse if the barber use any of the shampoo or conditioner available in the shop.
Even the landowner doesn’t know about this. Only your barber knows about this dandruff.
(Hint: the landowner is the one who owns the newspaper)
The dandruff is the hole in your story. Your article lacks information. Your story may be too sensitive. Your source doesn’t provide his disease. The editor may have to kill your story because it’s not worth to be published.
So your barber calls you again for the thousand times and asks about the dandruff (questions in your story).
You tell your barber (editor) that your friend (source) can be reached because you know your friend (source) well. So you call the source again and ask the questions that should be asked during the interview.
You ask your friend (source) via phone and start asking about the history of his dandruff; when did he get it, how did he get it, why did he get it, did he seek medical attention, what hospital/ clinic did he go to, how did he fund his bill; is his father wealthy, from what family background, does his family own land or business; what business……(and the list goes on).
The point here is that reporters have to cooperate with the editors to produce the best article for readers to learn and enjoy.
There is no harm to wait and sit beside your editors. Do you want the editor to shave your head pristine like the lake in Tasek Lama in the 17th century?
Another point that needs to be highlighted is that, I think the barber has to learn more about the situations outside his shop.
Barbers usually sit inside his comfortable air-conditioned shop for many hours and listen to world news in the radio.
We, as the client, go to his shops to have the best hairstyle that is. So, to make his shop grow, we bring our friends and relatives to his shop.
Sometimes, we spend a lot of time talking and convincing our friends to visit his shop. We spend a lot of car gas to meet with friends around the town and other districts. This is to ensure that the barber will get the best clients that he could ever have.
But, sometimes the barber comes as early as 10 in the morning, expecting to see clients when in fact it is a dry Sunday. A number of them only come after 3pm and drag us along with him past midnight.
Although there are clients who send their children to cut their hair in his shop before noon, this is a problem too because the client hasn’t paid.
I think the reason why clients only come late in the afternoon is mainly because there is no used to come early and finish early, especially to new clients.
They will have to stay until past midnight regardless he has finished his work before 6pm.
Here is my point. I have recently met with my old self last month and he told me how big I am right now.
It has been a year now and I have learnt a lot.
I have learnt how to stay up late. I have learnt how to wake up early. I have learnt to wake and sleep at odd hours.
I have learnt to respect, to be patient, to be tolerant, to endure criticisms and to fake smiles.
I have learnt about office politics, networking, socio-economic issues, governance, religion, business, and absolute power.
I have learnt death and the unbearable truth of journalism that seeking stories is more important than remembering the moments with your colleagues.
But the most important thing, I have learnt on what it means to become a person.
I have a family here. I am part of The Brunei Times’ family trees. I have breakfast, lunch and dinner in the office. I talk to my boss almost every day, share stories with colleagues every hours and treat the office as our second home.
Before this, I worked in various offices and the difference is apparent. Working in BT matures your mental capacity but have the potential to sag your man boobs if not treated with physical activities.
What prompts me to write is due to the recent sarcastic slur via email forwards to the Home News email.
I think pressure in work may blind a person’s integrity to the abyss of disrespect and incompetence.
I learned from a source that BT has a high turnover of staff.
I am learning to find out why.