The Reporter as Invisible Observer

In traditional journalism, reporters are invisible observers. They should not casually refer to their own participation in the events they describe.

“When I arrived at the event..” or “After I asked him…”

Bad Example When I climbed the stairs to John Smith’s apartment, I heard a strange, rhythmic thumping. Could it be bongo drums? I opened the door, and saw Smith sitting on the floor, banging away. He smiled at me and told me to come in.
In traditional news, a good reporter is an invisible observer. Readers of a restaurant review want to know your opinion, and readers of travel journalism want to know what you did, but in hard news, the journalist does not appear as a character.
Iffy Example Outside John Smith’s apartment, a strange thumping could be heard. Could it be bongo drums? When the door was opened, Smith could be seen sitting on the floor, banging away. A visitor is smiled at and welcomed.
When editing to remove self-references, don’t just switch to passive voice.
Good Example The thump of bongos fills the stairwell outside John Smith’s apartment. Pounding away, Smith welcomes a visitor without missing a beat.
The revision captures the energy of the scene; it aims to insert the reader directly into the reporter’s sensory experiences, while also enriching the description of an experience with precise, relevant details that would not be obvious to a visitor who just happened upon the scene.



Revise this:

One clear sunny day in June, I decided to go to Sunday Market by bike. Before I got there, I could hear cheerful voices from each shop’s owner.

“Irasshai” says an old woman on the right standing under a green tarp and selling green peppers.

“Would you like to buy fresh vegetables?” says a man on the other side holding a newspaper.

When I was walking through the market pushing my bike, one store smelled incredibly stinky. “What??” I looked back and got it. Absolutely it was takuwan (“pickled daikon radish”). I felt that this market is not a normal market. But I was excited so much.

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