One tenet of the Society of Professional Journalists’
code of ethics is to seek truth and report it — holistically. Aspiring journalists are
taught everyday in classrooms across the country to tell the story of
diversity, seeking news on all levels of public life.
It is the duty of journalists to provide citizens with
honest and comprehensive news. But somewhere along the way, many journalists
lose sight of this goal.
Oftentimes in the race to be the first to report a
government scandal or latest international news, combined with time constraints
to put out the news, journalists forget about the “little people.”
Instead, we search for hype and controversy. We chase
glamorous, sexy headlines and stories and communicate to the public that if
it’s not hot, it’s not news.
And this crime I was guilty of myself. This summer I fled
my hometown of Jackson, Miss.,
to intern in our nation’s capital. I thought it a must to go where “the action”
was, thinking it was not enough to learn from local anchors and reporters.
But amid the thrill of site briefings at the Capitol
Building, reporting for the
National Crime Prevention Council and my studies at Georgetown
University, I found that the most
poignant example of reporting on all levels came from home.
Just as I was sure that my summer in Washington,
D.C., was proving to be the best
professional experience of my undergraduate career, media big wig Tom Brokaw
proved me wrong.
I was watching his NBC investigation, “Separate and
Unequal,” which revealed the capital city’s history and ever-present struggle
with race and poverty.
As a Jacksonian, I was brought
to tears as I watched the piece. I felt Brokaw’s reporting was so magnanimous,
and I was truly touched by his accurate and decent account of my hometown.
As a journalist, I was instantly inspired. Without having
time to process the standards the SPJ’s code of
ethics, I knew at once that this investigation had successfully upheld “telling
the story of diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when
it is unpopular to do so.”
World tragedies in the last few years have seen wonderful
reporting. More isolated issues receive local coverage, and where local issues
reach national levels, Mississippi
is often seen on the fringes of coverage, if at all.
I was motivated by Brokaw, a prominent figure, taking on
a national trend in a location that is by no means sensational. Any other city
could have been selected, especially one with more notoriety. But Brokaw did
not conform to more typical means of reporting.
This is a lesson I will never forget, as it impressed in
me an appreciation for reporting news on all levels. Never before has my
journalism education or professional experience given me that. Now, I
understand it is not enough for me to rest on my laurels, and I challenge other
journalists with this charge.
April Reynolds is a senior journalism major from Jackson,
Miss., and serves as a news editor for the
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