Tuesday, April 15, 2008

You could call it vanity, I'll call it a social experiment

In a recent interview with one of my friends, a masters student in communications who is researching our newsroom, he talked to me about my views about the importance of bylines in newspapers. (FYI, bylines are the place under the headline where it says "By (writers name here)")

Also, I recently had my hair cut after about four months of no cutting. That means that my hair, which is straight and flat, turned into some sort of '70s-style helmet. It was quite thick and long enough to cover part of my ears.

These two subjects seem very unrelated, I know, but bear with me and I'll show you something I've learned about myself.

First off, something I've known about myself for a long time: I like attention.

I'll wait for you to collect yourself after that stunning revelation. < /sarcasm >*

What I've learned new, however, is a little bit about why I like attention.

When my interviewing friend asked me how I felt about bylines, my first thought was, "They are good because they give the writer credit for what they do."

The whole reason I am in newspapers must have something to do with getting credit for stuff, I guess. I do feel good when I am able to share stories with others which entertain, teach, bring to tears, etc. Good communication can do that, and it is at the source of all good relationships. Think about the person with whom you are the closest... That person is that way because you can communicate well with them.

Despite my first, I-want-attention thought to why I think bylines are important, my mind quickly told me why it thinks that way. To me, a byline allows the reader to know who the writer is in order to build a relationship. When the reader reads my byline over and over, I hope that our relationship continues to grow stronger with each well-written, thorough story. In short, a byline lets a reader know they can trust the story before they even read it. Making the newspaper all anonymous (as many news Web sites are) cuts down on that trust.

Bylines also make writers more accountable, I believe, because people with issues about certain pieces know exactly who to contact. One of my favorite phone calls to take in the newsroom is someone who is upset about someone else's story, because I can simply say, "I didn't write it, I'll transfer you to them." On the other side of the coin, my least favorite callers are the ones who call me out personally, not because I really worry about how they feel, except that they will now no longer feel trust associated with my name on the paper.

So, my self-discovery is that this need for attention that I have had for as long as I can remember, is rooted partly in my desire to build trusting relationships with those around me. That is a good thing. I feel like it has helped me acquire a very supportive group of family and friends around me.

Now, if you noticed, I said "partly" in the previous paragraph. I think another part of my drive for attention is a desire to entertain, both myself and others. This is where my hair cut comes in.
The last few times I cut my hair (all in 2007) no one mentioned anything about me getting a haircut. It kind of made me feel like I was a little too bland or something, because no one noticed enough to even comment. So, when Crystal told me it was time to cut my hair in February, I said I'd rather wait. I was entertaining myself with the prospect of seeing if anyone would notice.

When I explained that I wanted to wait to let it grow long enough that people would notice that I had cut it, she laughed at me.

Not with, at. She is a great wife.

Anyway, it was finally getting long and weird enough that she was getting tired of it, and with spring coming, I decided it was time to cut it, and see if my experiment worked. Also, I'd just found a great deal on my favorite hair care product, so I was excited to use it.

Crystal cut my hair to the length it had been before I started my experiment and I styled it up and went about my daily business. Other than the fact that my head was a lot colder in morning weather, I felt good about it. Then, the results of my experiment started coming in.

In the past week, seven people have commented on my hair. Thus, my experiment is a success. If you wait long enough to cut your hair, people will notice enough to comment on it. The scientific method wins again! (Don't worry, Crystal, I won't be doing more experiments in this field. I am thinking about testing the theory that eating more oatmeal creme pies will make me feel like cleaning the house more.)

Overall, I think I have learned a little bit more about myself, but also I have had some fun. If I can keep doing both those things, life will be good for a long, long time.

Now, if you care, here are pictures of my hair, pre- and post-experiment.

*The HTML reference was for Justin H., who is known to frequent this blog and comment on my inabilities to truly program or code pretty much anything. Hi, Justin!


Scott and Andrea Hamlin said...

That was nothing you should go look at the picture I took of Scott's hair the day I straightened it. Talk about being a great wife!

Seth and Peggy said...

Nice haircut! Great minds think alike I guess, because I am in the process of growing my hair out. When I have 10 or 12" I am going to cut it and give it to Locks of Love. But the whole reason I decided to do this was because last time I cut my hair 5" no one noticed. It was so depressing. I asked Ben if I looked different and he said I looked fatter (I had just had Kallie). I'm glad to see the process works!

Ruth said...

First, I agree with the byline and trust thing. I pay attention to bylines for that exact reason - like authors and books. I trust them to have clean language, logical or brilliant (or both) ideas, accurate reporting, etc... Just yesterday I clicked on an article that looked good from the title, saw the author (NY Times on-line uses bylines), clicked back out - without reading. On the other hand, there are articles I read, without much interest in the topic, because I enjoy the author (and trust him/her to deliver again).
Second, the hair thing is real. I too enjoy growing my hair out for a significant time and the comments that come when cutting it. In fact, enjoy probably isn't strong enough - I love it! And donating to Locks of Love is fun too - though I don't recommend it for you!
Finally, congrats on the lost pound. I think I found it. :)
p.s. I just read over this comment - it's a little obvious (at least to me) that I just finished taking a final. :) (yes, I even sometimes put smileys on my finals - anything to make the experience better. Maybe that's why I don't do so well. hmmm

Map Maker said...

You want some real attention, grow a beard and then shave it off.