There were a few stories I was pitching, a series related to Muslims in America pegged around last Ramadan to give it a newsworthy edge. My boss pulled me aside and said the senior editor of my newsroom wanted to be convinced about some of my story ideas. So I was asked to put together some "points" and meet with him the next day. I'd never even spoken to him before.
I got home and was pretty anxious about the whole thing. I felt this need to defend myself and my religion, even though my editor made it pretty clear that he wasn't outright rejecting anything. He just wanted to better understand.
I felt like I needed some quantitative research to back some of my ideas. I needed to hear from more Muslims, people who might identify more with the religion than I ever did. Muslims of different backgrounds and sects and ideologies and spectrums. So I created an online survey and sent it around.
The survey contained a list of news headlines covering Muslims in a non-negative light. I wanted to understand which topics and words made them feel good and which rubbed them the wrong way. I sent it to my friends, acquaintances and posted it in some private Facebook groups, including American Muslims, CAIR and others. Everyone had 24 hours to complete it.
By the time I got to my meeting, I think I had nearly 300 (or 500?) responses. Some of the answers surprised me, but my pitches were on the right track.
I walked into the meeting with my heart beating out of my chest. When it was my turn to speak, I confidently explained that if we're going to cover Islam/Muslims at all, it can't just be when something terrible happens. That's not balanced coverage. I had participated in a Muslims & Media panel session moderated by AJC's EIC one week earlier and pulled some of the feedback from our community's Muslims into my argument. I talked about how Muslims are put into similar minority boxes as Latinx or African-Americans, and the volume of coverage other marginalized communities receive compared to Muslims.
I then brought out my survey results to show the senior editor what kinds of things work and don't and added that maybe I need to tweak some of my proposed language.
By the time I finished, I was a little out of breath. And he said something along the lines of, "Well, OK then."
I remember feeling so...surprised by how I handled my nerves, by how much I really cared about the subject and how much I still do. It was a good day for me.
The #100daychallenge writing series is my way of holding my right brain accountable for all the brain fog in hopes that I'll learn to creatively organize my thoughts and learn something(s) new about myself in the process. The challenge includes prompts from the San Francisco Writers' Grotto's642 Things to Write About. You can also follow my #100daychallenge here.