The problem with your writing is...

I’m told that the reason the first person narrative doesn’t work is because it makes a piece too biased and subjective

Saba Khalid August 01, 2012
Over the last one year, I’ve heard the line, “the problem with your writing is… ” so many times that I’m starting to doubt that I even get my ABC’s right. Lately, the problem has been my excessive, overindulgent use of the first-person narrative, which apparently, is a complete no-no in the world of journalism.

I can’t really blame anyone — when I get to writing, I get emotional. Whether the story is about something as frivolous as Veena Malik or as grim as target killings, I just have to incorporate my girly emotions, fall prey to the pretty adjectives that create wonderful prose and slide in a snide remark or two to showcase my disdain for a subject. I’m more biased than a US immigration officer and more personal about an issue than need be. And with me, you’ll always get too much ‘I’, not enough ‘them’.

But that’s not solid hardcore journalism, I’m told. That’s not good writing. A newspaper needs content. Real content. Facts, not mere fluff. My ‘I’s’ and ‘me’s’ would’ve almost worked had I earned a PhD in something unpronounceable from a university far away from here. But sadly, I have neither — which means my ‘I’ stands for nothing more than ignoramus. I’m told that the reason the first person narrative doesn’t work is because it makes a piece too biased and subjective.

But then, don’t all reporters and journalists write subjectively? They may not use ‘I’ as indulgently as I use it but even their coverage is shaded by their likes and dislikes, perceptions and personality. Every fact highlighted by the reporter is selective, according to the kind of reporter he is, the mood he arrived in and his own beliefs. Even the way a reporter writes the quotes in his story is subjective. How he understands them is subjective. How he presents them to make a logical argument is subjective.

Send another reporter to the same place and he will probably highlight different facts, bring in different shades and share different elements of the story. And no matter how much cleaning up an editor does, there will always be some subjectivity that creeps in unannounced.

So if we’re all being ‘subjective’ about the subject, why can’t ‘I’ be upfront about it?

Read more by Saba here.
Saba Khalid A blogger for Rolling Stone magazine, a contributor to Kulturaustauch and Musikexpres, Saba is an Institute for Foreign Affairs (IFA) Cross Culture scholar for the year 2012 who also teaches creative writing to young aspiring writers. She blogs at and can be found on instagram as @thecityalive
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


manoj | 11 years ago | Reply Maybe you could have included a bit about how all publications (online or otherwise) always have an agenda, a larger game-plan, a marketing strategy and of course- a time/length/resource limitation.More often than not, THAT tends to define what a journalist delivers and whether you get a byline or not.
elementary | 11 years ago | Reply Why not try out the fiction; your downs will be ups in that kind of writing.
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