The moment you write the word “I” in your story, your relationship with your reader changes. Because now you are a character just like everyone else. Your observations have to become even more prevalent. Your opinions now have to be known.
You have to ask yourself – is my involvement important enough to be in this story? Am I active enough for the reader to care about me?
I also use the following examples for my students to understand the role of the narrator while reporting on scene. The first is by Martha Gellhorn, one of the greatest female journalists of all time (any woman who can wrap Ernest Hemingway around her finger is highly desirable in my book). She was one of the first American reporters at Dachau, filling in the rest of the world about the realities of Nazi concentration camps. Her advantage is her brutal honest. I’m glad she didn’t mask her anger. That’s not the point of a first person piece.
Her reporting for Collier’s in 1945: Dachau: Experimental Murder
I also show my students a modern take on war, where the baffling management of war is scrutinized. The American invasion of Iraq was chronicled for nearly two months by Evan Wright of Rolling Stone. His story proved that drawing game plans in the mud during a paint ball game may not be so far off from some of the U.S. military strategists. Fortunately, the raw reality of our Recon Marines makes this one of the most appealing war stories you will ever read. Wright also displays an honesty – because he tells us that what the rest of the Marines are telling him is absolutely true – war is exhilarating. And comical. Students could not believe what these men were discussing while facing death, but that is what makes this story all the more enjoyable (and frightening.)
Check out the HBO miniseries based on the story titled Generation Kill.