Press Pause: Reflection–Journalist? Me? What does that mean?

Tiredness started to set in as I interviewed a source on Thursday. My mind kept wandering. I couldn’t wait to get some sleep. Pay attention, Daniela, I told myself. This is important.

I tried. I really did in that moment.  Then my mind started to wander again.

I started thinking about the past week at my university.  National coverage wasn’t great. Context and nuance were lost in the quick pickup of the story.

How often do I do miss context and nuance? Why do I do this, why do I care and who am I to claim that I can accurately share the experiences of other people?  

Pay attention.

I did my best for the rest of the interview. But I left disappointed.  I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been.

On the drive back to school, I thought more about the bigger picture. I had never asked myself what I as an individual journalist valued in my work. Had I thought about the kind of values that would shape my habits, practice and future stories?

Not really.

I understand the central ethics of good journalism: seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, be accountable and transparent.  I value those and want to write pieces that reflect exactly that.

But after watching how people reacted to the coverage of the events at Mizzou this week, I also know that what journalists write has an effect, good or bad—nonetheless, the articles people read (or headlines for that matter) shape conversations and perspectives.

That’s a lot of responsibility!  Our audiences aren’t some imaginary folks out there.  So how can I create excellent journalism?

These are a handful of beginning thoughts. The more I continue reporting, the more I’ll add on to this.

  • I want to be a journalist that does research to ask informed and challenging questions.
  • I don’t want to create a narrative and go out to find answers to fit it. That’s not telling other people’s stories. That’s telling my own. And this isn’t about me.
  • I want to have a better understanding of the community around me. That means getting out of my apartment and my usual places. If I believe journalism is a public service, then I better know the public I’m working for (especially as a part of public media *KBIA*).
  • I want to report accurately. That involves being more aware of how and why I might interpret a response one way or the other.
  • I want to be better prepared for interviews. I’ve realized I’m getting a little too confident in my ability to interview a subject. Do I know what my line of inquiry will be? Have I anticipated answers?  I want to get to the deeper questions and the answers they prompt.

Be humble: I don’t know all the answers. That’s why I go out and talk with people.

Be curious: The world is filled with interesting, heart breaking and compelling stories.

Be reflective: Take a few moments to think about what you learned, how you were challenged. What went well? What didn’t go well? And what can you change for the next go around.

I want to be a good journalist so my audience can listen or watch a story that’s accurate, empathetic and fair. I have so much more to experience and learn. But I’m excited for what that will hold (I know failure is mixed in there somewhere, but so is success).

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