Stuttering journalist; an oxymoron at first glance. A telephone-call-making, inquisitive reporter who has trouble saying her own name.
I’m CiCi and I stutter. To the fluent speakers of the world (all 70 million+ of you) who don’t know, or have little knowledge of what stuttering is: It is a communication disorder involving disruptions or “disfluencies” in a person’s speech. In other words, stutterers don’t speak the way most do and talking is way more exhausting, difficult and often embarrassing for us than for most.
This impediment manifests itself in uncontrollable repetitions, prolongations and sometimes the inability to say a word at all (that’s called a block).
About one percent of the world’s population stutters. I am part of that tiny percentage. And it’s not because I’m speaking faster than I’m thinking, it’s not because I’m nervous, it’s not because I need to think about what I’m going to say before I say it or because I’m a genius (although I totally am). I stutter simply because I do.
Although the cause of stuttering is unknown, what is known is that stuttering is not caused by emotional problems and it is not a psychological disorder. Most importantly, it’s no one’s fault.
Stuttering is a genetically influenced neurological condition that usually develops during childhood, with the exception of special cases.
So now that we’ve gotten the basics out of the way, let’s talk about journalism, shall we?
I am a freelance journalist living in Brooklyn, currently writing for People Magazine’s website, people.com (formerly with Daily Mail). Why would a stutterer choose such a profession? One that demands impeccable speech and confidence? No clue, but I love it. It was my major in college, but much like any other stutterer, I knew, even then, that it would pose a challenge in my career path.
As one would think, journalists are writers. But only about 10 percent of journalism is the actual writing, the other 90 percent is interviewing, chasing leads, fact-checking and thinking critically. Journalism is a social service, speaking with people is a huge part of the profession.
So, where does that leave a reporter who has three interviews and two stories to finish by noon, but can barely manage to say the words, “Hello, my name is…"