One the great parts about writing for larger online networks is meeting other writers. That was the case with Dustin Alexander, who I met while writing news for Examiner. Dustin has a wonderful news background, and it’s been a thrill to get to know him. I’ll know you’ll enjoy this interview.
You have a wonderfully diverse background in media, including news, voiceover work, and features. Tell us what drew you to the news industry?
I enjoy communicating. It’s the quintessential part of the human experience. Growing up, I was one of those rare children that would watch the news on TV and try to catch AM radio broadcasts also. I enjoyed learning from what I saw and heard. While my peers were out playing sports, I was very happy to read newspapers and magazines.
My mentors in Chicago news were John Drury, Joel Daley and the late Fahey Flynn, of Eyewitness News (ABC 7). As a teenager I watched Carol Marin and Ron Magers. My mornings would begin with The Wally Philips Show on WGN. And afternoons and weekends were spent listening to Bill Garcia of US-99 and Larry Lujak on WLS-AM.
When I was 12, I had a chance to go to Chicago and meet Bill Garcia, in person. Mr. Garcia encouraged me to consider a career in radio. I promised him and my parents that I would do just that. The excitement of seeing all the engineering equipment and being at a big city radio station sparked a passion for electronics and broadcasting that I am still in love with, to this day.
My first news correspondents job didn’t go well at all. But my first editor of the Chicago Sun-Times based suburban paper I only worked at, for a month, told me to not give up on writing. It was several years before I made the decision to give news writing another try. I’m glad I did!
What do you enjoy about being a freelance writer and reporter? And what don’t you like about it?
Writing is an art form to me. It’s an extension of our everyday communications skills. People have a desire to be a part of the human interaction of communicating with one another. I find that people have a desire to know about the world around them. As a writer, I believe I inform people of the truth and matters that are important to each individual reader or viewer. It is enjoyable to learn about different subject matters, while doing research for a story or feature. It is my belief that I should generously share that new found knowledge with my viewers.
The best part about writing has been the opportunities to meet knew people, learn about new worlds and cultures and overall share all these things with my viewers. Hopefully, the privileges I’ve been afforded, as a writer, I can pass on to others.
I don’t like when I have to report sad or traumatic news. Yet, it is my personal duty to share what I can with the rest of society and hopefully it will make some sort of difference for the overall good.
While I don’t appreciate some of the hassles a journalist has to encounter, in order to get certain information, I truly enjoy the challenge that those times bring me.
Share some of your writing goals. What’s next for you?
I plan on writing a book about some of my experiences. I’m currently working on co-authoring my sister’s personal memoirs. This has been a difficult task due to the amount of personal tragedy the lady has gone through. I’ve drawn great strength in her courage and wisdom as I write her thoughts and experiences. It has given me the opportunity to learn more about my sister and is teaching me life lessons I never thought I would learn.
If it is meant to be, I would like to continue writing for the news and entertainment industry. While it is uncertain where this will lead me, I enthusiastically embrace and welcome any opportunity I have to endear myself to this industry and the people that continually support me in that endeavor.
What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?
The Holy Bible and the Koran. (Sorry that’s 2.) If a person allows themselves to be open-minded to new thoughts and ideas, The Bible has a little bit of everything.
Agatha Christie and J.K. Rowling. I love a good mystery and also enjoy getting lost in the world of fantasy.
Book you’re currently reading?
A: I’ve decided to finally read The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons and The Lost Symbol. I’m behind the times as these aren’t fresh to the market, but I read books when I’m interested in doing so, not just because it’s the latest craze. Reading and appreciating a book should be in your own good time and not when everyone else is doing it. In order to appreciate a book, you have to be ready to commit to starting and finishing it. It’s also nice to re-read certain books more than once.
Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how did you get past it? If not, why not?
Writing shouldn’t be mechanical. It should reflect the individual personality of the author. I’ve suffered from writers block on several occasions. To get through those times, I accept the fact that I’m experiencing a block and I don’t let it discourage me. I walk away from writing until I’m ready to write again. Stories that I may have an interest in writing, that just don’t flow, I usually determine that it may not be something I should or need to write about after all. This only happens to me with features. Writing the news is usually somewhat easier because of deadlines and the ability to have exact information at your fingertips we you’re writing news.
In your opinion, what’s the measure of a successful writer?
Integrity and desire should be a writers basic motivations to write. Whether I have 1 viewer or 100,000 viewers of my work, I measure success, one viewer at a time. Being honest and fair, in your writing, without putting too much of your own opinion within, is important too. I believe my readers can form their own thoughts and opinions, from my work and I treat them with as much intellectual respect as possible. My greatest success comes from viewers trusting me to accurately inform them through my work.
Advice for other writers?
A: Try it. You just might like it. Don’t be afraid of constructive criticism, but also be your own person when writing. Your personality and essence should be personified in whatever you write. Be fair and open to new and different things. Don’t limit yourself. Try as many things as you want. Stick with what’s comfortable and abandon what just won’t work for you. A career or even hobby, as a writer, opens up windows to worlds that will amaze you!
Where can we learn more about you?
Anything else you’d like to add?
I have my family to thank for ensuring my stellar education. Their past sacrifices to see me succeed, will hopefully be rewarded by my continuing to be the best I can be in everything I strive to do in life.