EL PASO – The interview process with the men’s roller derby teams had been stimulating, attending the practice had been inspiring (although a little scary at times), and the writing process had been consuming.
Altogether writing about one of Texas’ few men’s roller derby teams brewing right here was one of the best experiences I’ve had as a journalist in El Paso. After three years of journalistic writing, this was the story I was the most amped about covering. After months of waiting for the chance to get the story, hours of work, and bubbling excitement – my story was published. I sent a text of ‘thanks!’ and ‘hope you enjoy’ to my sources, and anxiously waited for their texts back of approval.
And they hated it.
Back in October 2012, I had stumbled across a Facebook page with a flyer reading, ‘men’s roller derby practice’ to be held at the El Paso County Coliseum. At the time, I was interning at ABC-7 and had told my supervisor about the up and coming practices, which led to some on-air interviews with the men’s roller derby founder, Prettie Poison. Since I was just an intern there wasn’t much else I could do about it, but I knew I wanted to be the first to cover all their firsts. I became too impassioned, I think, and the men’s roller derby story felt like it had this bizarre destiny to be my story. Especially because four months after seeing the public Facebook post, no one had picked up on it.
Once I was writing for Borderzine, I jumped on the opportunity to interview Prettie Poison. I was hungry for a good story, and as a student journalist my hope of impressing my family, editors, and sources had become overwhelming. My first interview with Prettie Poison was supposed to be only about 30 minutes long and only concerning the new men’s team. Somehow, it turned into an hour- and-a half. I found myself asking more questions about roller derby culture, as well as Prettie Poison’s own personal love for the sport, fitness/mental requirements to play, etcetera.
The roller derby world was foreign to me. All I knew about it was from what I had seen in the Drew Barrymore movie, “Whip It”. As a novice to the sport, I found everything Prettie Poison said about the sport completely enthralling. For a minute, she had almost convinced me into joining it myself.
“Some people are gonna hate you” a professor had told my freshman colleagues and I, all aspiring journalism students, on the first day of class. It was a forewarning, a somewhat brutal one, and yet, a very honest one. Because as a journalist, as I have now learned – you will never be able to make everyone happy, and some people will get very upset. We writers carry a lot of weight in words, in that way.
Those dismal words may nearly enough to make you reconsider your career choice, but I didn’t think about them again until three years later. They reverberated through my brain after I received a lengthy, disheartening email from the president of the roller derby league who was upset about some “misrepresentations” I had stated in the article and wanted the whole thing brought down. I was beyond sick to my stomach.
However, I’m still here and still writing. I have felt that totally consuming feeling of writing a story you believe in and have finally felt the sting of rejection – and they both move me and help me to continue writing. As a graduating journalism student, I think I learned the most with that one story, than I did throughout all my journalism studies. Internships, classes, and workshops combined – there’s nothing like having someone hate your work that makes you push harder. And since there are an awful lot of people in this world, I’m prepared to be pushing and bettering my craft all the time.
“If you write a controversial story and both sides hate it, you know you did a good job,” said Borderzine editor David Smith-Soto.