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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

A conversation with journalists

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I’ve been in this profession a long time now, and one of the recurring questions I hear from the public is why I or my media organization covered a particular topic the way we did — or why didn’t we cover an issue. 

In addition to the criticism for what we do, local media also is lumped in with national media, and we often get criticized for the coverage of those organizations. That’s not to say local media is above critique, but don’t judge your local media based off of what CNN does. 

If you’ve ever wondered how or why journalists do what we do, you’ll have the chance to ask us in a few days.

“Chew on This: Why Does Local Reporting Matter?” is an opportunity for the public to discuss journalism and ask actual journalists those questions you’ve always wanted to know. Sponsored by Indiana Humanities, the virtual discussion with journalists will be 6:30-8:30 p.m. Sept. 22. You can register on eventbrite.com. Cost is $10.

Also, this conversation is an opportunity for journalists to explain why we may choose to cover one issue or event over another and give insight on how newsrooms work today. Believe me, you can’t believe everything you see on TV or in the movies. Newsrooms have changed drastically in my career. The things I did as a copy clerk in college and even as a cub reporter are no longer done. The internet changed the game — in positive and negative ways. 

I think some may be surprised to learn how small newsrooms are today compared to even 10 years ago. The size of a newsroom also helps determine its coverage. Fewer people means more events or issues will be missed. Many readers may not realize the connection between advertising, circulation and staffing, or realize the difference between online advertising revenue vs. print advertising revenue (advertising revenue is what keeps newspapers alive, by the way).

I love talking about journalism, and I love talking about Black people. While the journalism I do is specifically for Black people, it is still rooted in journalistic principles and ethics. The foundation of what I do isn’t based on race or ethnicity and is actually cemented in the Constitution. However, as a Black woman, I often see the world through a different lens than my white colleagues. At the Recorder, I’m able to connect my love of journalism with my desire to educate and empower Black people. I call it a perfect personal and professional symbiosis.

As an African American woman, I often share the frustrations voiced by others when discussing media coverage as it relates to race. I also often vent about sexist coverage and wonder who dropped the ball and allowed an article into print. 

Sometimes in my criticism I forget how challenging aspects of this job can be. While I love the pressure of deadlines, deadlines aren’t for the faint of heart. Unfortunately, our deadlines aren’t always our sources’ most pressing concern. I can’t tell you the amount of praying, crossing fingers and bargaining with the universe to get a source to call back before deadline I’ve seen in a newsroom — or how much I’ve done! For a reporter, one of the best feelings in the world is to finally exhale a sigh of relief because your story is complete and on time to your editor. 

Most journalists I’ve worked with over the years want to give readers the best, most accurate story possible. It often comes down to time, lack of sensitivity to certain issues or blind spots and not intent when journalists get it wrong or miss the mark. 

Conversations such as the one Sept. 22 can help shed light on the process of reporting and allow readers to share their expectations and offer critiques as well as commendation. 

I’m excited and honored to participate in these simultaneous conversations with other journalists from different media outlets in Indiana. Dan Grossman, managing editor of Nuvo, and I will be co-facilitators of one of the conversations. Please join us for what is sure to be an engaging conversation.

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