“Kyung Lah’s Journey to Journalism”

by Karyn Lacey

Oftentimes when journalists are asked, “Why did you decide to be a journalist?” A typical response to the question would be, “Because I was curious.” Some may consider that to be a generic response or even boring.

When given the question, Kyung Lah, a senior national correspondent for CNN based in Los Angeles, spoke candidly about why she decided to become a journalist.

“I was born in Korea and I grew up in the northwest side of Chicago. So, we were immigrants,” said Lah, “and what became very obvious to me as I was growing up is the lack of power my parents had because of our income, because of what they did, because of language, because of disability, and for me the great equalizer was journalism.”

Giving credit to her family and minority background, she acknowledges that reading local and national newspapers, such as the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the New York Times, helped her realize that journalism can be an avenue to be a better life and a seat at the table.

“If you are not connected politically, you don’t have a lot of money in this country, journalism could bring you to the forefront,” said Lah. “So, that was one of the driving forces for why I want[ed] to be[come] a journalist. To try to be a voice for people who don’t have a voice.”

Once Lah was set on becoming a journalist, there was no stopping that train to the journalism world. She graduated with honors from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. While attending U of I, Lah wrote for the school’s newspaper, The Daily Illini. However, it wasn’t long before she discovered broadcast journalism and fell in love with its potential.

“I couldn’t get into sort of the critical print class I needed…so I took a broadcast class. And I loved it. It was instant.” said Lah, “I thought writing to picture and sound, talking to people, and capturing the emotions of their voice. Man, this is it. I love it.”

Before returning to the CNN U.S. in 2012, Lah served as the Tokyo correspondent for CNN International. There, she covered the 9.0 earthquake that struck Japan, the disastrous tsunami that killed 15,000 people, and the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown. One year after the worst nuclear disaster in 25 years, Lah was the first US broadcast journalist to be taken inside the meltdown.

Since moving back to the U.S, she has covered numerous mass shooting, ranging from, “Newton, to San Bernardino to Las Vegas, to this last shooting in Parkland.” Covering multiple tragedies and calamities, Lah admits journalism made her wiser because it challenges her to look at all sides of the spectrum. She states that, “We need to understand that we don’t live in a bubble…America is large [and]…the world has so many different perspectives.” Although, she’s reported on some of the country’s most tragic stories, there is one that stands apart.

“One of the worst story I have ever covered was about a mother in Oakland (CA.), whose two sons died by random street crime… three weeks apart. All of her kids died in a month,” said Lah, “…that’s horrible. Is that America?  Is that the way we want to live? All of that helps you realize, you better cherish life because it can go away quick.”

There’s no question that journalism connects various worlds that would otherwise be separate entities unaware of each other. Whether its reporting nationally or internationally, Lah learned, “at the end of the day, it’s still a lot about the human experience… connect[ing] people regardless of language and culture. You’re going to tell an authentic story.”

Journalism remains a continuous journey that leads to different paths, or as Lah affirms, “you are never going to stop learning” when it comes to journalism.


Getting it right: CNN’s Ish Estrada

By Varvara Makarevich

Three years ago, I was in Moscow setting my mind on going to the U.S. for the first time. At that moment, I couldn’t even think that in a couple of years I’d be calling Chris Kennedy’s campaign office, or preparing questions for the NBC Forum for Democratic candidates willing to run for Illinois Governor’s office, or even better – interviewing Ismael “Ish” Estrada, a CNN investigative producer at Anderson Cooper 360.

And here I am on a Friday morning in my Chicago apartment getting ready to interview a professional from American journalistic world I’d never thought I’d have a chance to talk to. Nervous and excited. These are the two words that describe best my emotional condition.

The second Estrada picks up the phone, I put my emotions aside. Because this is a part of my job – to be, or at least to sound, confident. Moreover, to be able to keep my emotions out of the way while reporting.

And Estrada, an EMMY award winner for covering Haiti earthquake in 2010, proves this idea: “You get wrapped into these human elements, you do get wrapped into emotions of everything. But you have to maintain your composure, and you have to tell a good story.”

No matter what breaking news you’re covering, he continues, your job is still the same – “you have to tell a story, you have to tell a good story, and not losing focus on being a journalist.” Though he admits that it’s hard to stay focused because there might be so many good stories around you while you’re doing your breaking news assignment. His advice is to take notes for later or pass a potential story to a colleague, but stay focused and concentrated.

However, there are human stories and human beings behind any assignment first of all. How you treat victims is a significant ethical question. “All we have when we tell these stories is our word,” says Estrada, “I give them my word that I will tell the best story that we can when we go in.”

Estrada mentions that there is one ability that is essential for a journalist – an ability to listen. “You get more of the story by just listening,” says Estrada, “you learn things by just listening.” Then he continues: “The most important thing is that you allow those people to tell a story. You allow them to be able to share the grief with you. You allow them to be able to talk to you.”

The skill of listening should go along with another one that actually allows you to tell a story – writing. “The most important [skill] whether you’re on air, whether you’re a producer, whether you’re a writer, whether you’re a desk assistant, whether you’re writing for .com, the most important thing for being a successful person in broadcast journalism is being able to write,” says Estrada. Not even mentioning print or online reporters.

But the most challenging thing in our fast-paced world, where everybody wants to be the first, and the stakes are high, is to be accurate. “The most important thing about what we do,” says Estrada, “is getting the stories right. You have to be right.”


Ray Suarez 40-Years of Media Experience

A Honed Sense for Interviews

By William Sullivan

Doing an interview can be challenging.  People who are not used to being in front of a camera or recorded can be nervous, and that makes them less likely to talk.  It is also a challenge to be the one doing the interview.

You have to make people who are nervous feel comfortable.  You have to make people who are practiced at canned sound bites open up and say something new. You can only get good at interviewing by practice, building up your skills over the course of a career.

Ray Suarez is a practiced interviewer. He has honed the craft over 40 years in journalism.  He has interviewed people as famous as Condoleezza Rice, Janet Napolitano and Noam Chomsky.   He was the host of Inside Story on Al Jazeera America, and a senior correspondent on PBS NewsHour.

“I have found when an interview is not live and not meant to be broadcast in its entirety, what works best is to get people talking…to establish flow” Suarez said on getting a good interview.  “It can create comfort, get a person talking, and lower inhibition once you finally do turn to the meat of the conversation, the real reason you’re talking to this person.”

“People reveal themselves not only in the basic content of an answer, but how they answer…their manner…their responses to questions” he said. “Sometimes you don’t have to really be very aggressive at all. Just persistent….by treating them with care and respect I find people will often come to trust you in short order” he said.  They will “proceed with confidence that you are a responsible person.”

He sees serious disadvantages to doing live interviews. “The thing that I like least about live interviews is having to get all the important stuff out on the record under the tyranny of the clock,” Suarez said. “If the person being interviewed knows this (public officials who are often interviewed know well this part of the game) they know they can run out the clock by being evasive, purposely incomplete in responses, or non-responsive.”

He has also had to face an obstacle that an increasing number of Americans confront, a sudden career change.

Suarez suddenly lost his job when Al Jazeera America shut down in 2016. It was the first time in over 40 years that he has not been a practicing journalist.  After a short time freelancing, he is now a visiting professor at Amherst College.  “Some of the skills involved are very much like being a reporter,” he said. “Mastering large bodies of materials, deciding sequence of exposition so that ideas build on each other in a way that enhances understanding, and knowing when to follow a digression in a way that gives classroom sessions a feeling of spontaneity and surprise.”

His career started out very small. “I worked on my high school newspaper,” he said. “I got my first paid jobs in the business at a local radio station WNEW AM, and the ABC Radio Network.”

What he did there was not the most inspiring work. “I made coffee, changed typewriter ribbons, called in lunch orders for correspondents, loaded paper in the teletype machines, answered phones, and other important journalistic work” Suarez said.  But “WNEW was a great place to learn. I took in reporter feeds from the field, cut tape, prepared tape for anchors’ hourly newscasts, and wrote traffic, weather, and sports.”

His career really began, he believes, after he graduated from NYU. “I became the news editor for a trade magazine, and long nights of laying out the student paper proved invaluable,” he said. “I was 22. And launched.”

After two years, he doesn’t see his future in academia. “I do want to return to full time journalism,” he said. “As rewarding as teaching for this academic year has been, events in the US and the World have made this a particularly difficult time to be out of the newsroom.”

Suarez was a cooperative interview subject.  Probably as a result of a career spent being on the other side of the table. Except for one question.  “I refuse to be cornered,” he said. That question, was what his favorite sandwich is. “I grew up in Brooklyn, with Jewish delis and Italian salumerias close to hand,” he said.  “I don’t know how I could be forced to choose between a pastrami sandwich with great deli mustard, and an eggplant parmigiana hero dripping with a fabulous tomato sauce.”


Bruce Rheins, Ahead of the Times

By Arman Rahman

Most of the world knew nothing of a particular past President’s private pastime. After releasing a book of his oil paintings, the retired George W. Bush revealed “I paint because it’s an outlet, it’s a sense of creativity I never really had before.”

I expected this type of glance into the soul when I asked former producer Bruce Rheins what he thinks most people don’t know about him. Instead I got a much different answer. “I think that most people may not know that I am still very interested in the state of journalism these days even though I am retired.”

“It has never been at a point where a prevailing viewpoint among a significant percentage of people is that we are simply making things up and are bias to a degree that we’re trying to influence a particular viewpoint one way or another.” He resentfully concluded: “it’s something that I’m really concerned about for my former colleagues and the rest of the nation.”

It is a passionate, seasoned concern that marks Rheins’ voice. His 34 years as a producer began alongside the barrier-breaking ABC World News Tonight anchor Max Robinson in Chicago. He then transitioned to CBS, where he led coverage from the Columbine school massacre, to Hurricane Katrina, to the Iraq War, to the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Kate Middleton in London. Yet Chicago, during the Harold Washington years, stands out among the rest.

“It was the city of characters. I’ve often told people it’s the biggest small town in the world,” he reminisces.

Despite his love for our Windy City, his single favorite experience took him to even colder places. He led teams in Antarctica, the South Pole, and the North Pole, covering scientific topics such as climate change. Issues which he knew “hadn’t really taken hold by that time” in 1999. Rather than “doing it before it was cool,” Rheins covered hot topics before the country knew how hot they were.

Upon his return to the South Pole in 2008, concern for the topics of global warming and climate change had grown. After the influx of coverage, he now fears much of the public has begun to tune that issue out.

Yet an issue unfortunately fresh on the country’s mind is another “first” in reporting for Rheins: school shootings. He covered the first glaring, deadly U.S. school shooting: the Columbine massacre.

“There was no template to cover school shootings,” he said. “Unfortunately, there is kind of a template because we have gone through so many of those things today.”

Covering such a chaotic and grief-filled event caused Rheins to empathetically change gears in his reporting. “We sometimes found in our interviews,” he said “that it was too raw and too painful. And we certainly gave people the option of not talking to us or walking away if things were too raw and painful for them.”

A respectful courtesy which Rheins thinks is disappearing with social media-driven competition.

“Especially with the pressure to tweet and to post and to make snapchat videos to lure younger people to watch the story, I think that sometimes that infringes upon taking a thoughtful look at what you’re doing.” He added, “when you’ve got the ‘hot sweet interview with the crying person,’ y’know the inclination nowadays to post that and beat the competition is much more prevalent today than it was back then.”

Rheins disagrees with the web-centric evolution of news, despite being among the pioneers of certain types of news coverage. Reflecting on the self-esteem issues which plagued Max Robinson throughout his career, Rheins believes social media exacerbates that for all in the business.

“Everybody likes to be liked, right? Everyone wants to be acknowledged as doing a good job,” he began. “When they [journalists] are constantly slagged on social media and that social media gets reported on other social media or on other news or non-news websites, y’know it just becomes this echo chamber that becomes, I think, a little bit on the edge of being unbearable.”

Perhaps, to be as ahead of the times as Bruce Rheins has been, we need to take a step back.




Reporting on tragedy with NBC’s Ron Mott

by Ylldes Mustafa


“We’re all human,” is how Ron Mott, news correspondent for NBC and MSNBC, responded when I asked, “What do we do when we are faced with the task of covering a story like the tragic mass shooting in Parkland, FL or a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina?”

Tragedies like these, and the many before it, have a lasting effect on their community as well as on the nation itself. When these tragedies occur, reporters rush to the scene to capture what they can on video, talk to those involved and get as many details as possible from authorities. In the midst of it all, reporters may seem to take on the behaviors of a robot as they put on a brave face to cover the day’s grievances and give the public the knowledge it deserves about the unfortunate event that has just taken place.

Mott, a very seasoned and award-winning journalist, has covered numerous  tragedies ranging from the catastrophes of Hurricane Katrina to the disaster that was the BP oil spill on the Gulf Coast and says it is important to know that these people are victims of horrible occurrences.

“The first thing to remember,” Mott said, “is that the people you are interviewing, are people. We have this sort of unfortunate term that we use in broadcasting to describe people we interview as characters. I don’t know how that originated, but I’ve been a reporter for 20 years and I almost cringe myself when I use it. But, I think the thing to remember, especially after a tragedy like that [Hurricane Katrina] is that you’re talking to a human being, not a character.”

Mott is no stranger to the arduous task of having to confront the victims of these misfortunes. His coverage on natural disasters alone, such as hurricanes Katrina, Irma and Maria, have proved to be a journalistic challenge, but has distinguished ways in how to mediate stories like this.

“These people are going to be part of a story,” Mott said, “but, again, they’re people, and I think when you bring your own humanity to a story like that you are going to get better interviews as a result because they know that you are a journalist who can truly relate to them.”

Building trust between himself and his sources has always been a key factor for Mott when he ventures out on daunting stories. As one can imagine, the thought of running up to a hurricane victim with a camera and microphone in hand after their life has been turned upside is not the most ideal situation to find yourself in, but Mott offers some words of advice to journalists who find themselves in similar situations.

“You have to remember what they [victims] have gone through,” Mott said.  “While you’re there to do a job, put yourself, and always think about being in their shoes at that moment. The approach is always important no matter who you’re talking to and I always try to bring a level of empathy with my approach to people and show them respect.”

Mott’s level of compassion and understanding for his sources during these trying times has proven to be an effective measure of success and his career in journalism is an example of that.



“If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”


Ylldes Mustafa

“If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out,” is an old phrase upheld by many journalists. Since the beginning of my freshman year, I have been reminded again and again about the importance of this phrase. For those that may not be familiar with this saying, it means to fact check everything—even if it’s something as simple as your mother telling you that she loves you. In a world filled with facts, fiction and “alternative facts,” it is important to be skeptical and an avid seeker of the truth.

As a journalist, it is my duty to find and report the facts when working on a story. Leaving out any bias I may have on any particular issue is what my audience deserves from me, but what happens when my audience does not believe the facts presented? What happens when the viewer doubts me and decides that their beliefs are what’s true and what I have just reported is “fake news?”

There are a plethora of issues surrounding this idea of “fake news” today. Though it may be a viable argument to say that articles written by specific websites and other news media outlets may not be entirely credible, it is not viable to argue that something is “fake news” just because it does not fit one’s belief, or opinion. There seems to be this preconceived notion that because a person does not like or disagrees with a specific statement that it is a lie. “The media lies to us,” is something we hear time and time again. While there have been instances where a story was deemed untrue, it does not justify the slander of the press and journalists as a whole.

To confront this issue and seek the truth, “fact-checking” has become a very popular trend since the 2016 presidential election. News publications and other news organizations such as The New York Times and The Washington Post have published numerous articles confirming or correcting what candidates have stated as “fact.” Correcting statistics seemed to be, and still is, something that journalists strive to provide for readers, viewers and listeners, but what’s right isn’t always welcomed.

What causes people to deem fact(s) as fiction? After all, a difference of opinion does not take away from a fact being a fact. Many will turn to the President of the United States of America when arguing this claim. Because there is someone in a high position of power and authority, many feel as though his or her words are spoken truths and those who oppose these “spoken truths” are the bearers of “fake news.” This is referred to by social scientists as a “confirmation bias.” Through confirmation bias, people tend to interpret news and facts in a way that fits their feelings.

In an interview with Kellyanne Conway, the Counselor to the President of the United States, Chuck Todd, NBC’s Meet the Press’ moderator, asks Conway about “falsehoods” President Trump specifically asked then press secretary, Sean Spicer, to say in a White House press briefing. Conway states that these are simply “alternative facts” and Todd fires back by stating that, “Alternative facts are not facts. They’re falsehoods.” This phrase gained traction and has since then been used to discredit truthful information.

If we take Conway and look at her comments about President Trump’s inauguration crowd size and the “alternative facts,” it is obvious that these comments were made to discredit the media and their reports about the inauguration and to give credibility to the administration’s story on the event. This type of language is devised to make lies sound like facts and discredit any opposition, which in this situation is the press.

Journalists and those involved in the current news media have the responsibility to publish factual, and only factual, information free from bias. It should be the responsibility of the viewer, reader or listener to understand, or learn how to spot, when this information is true or untrue. With all things considered, reporters have a duty to present truths as they are, free from bias and citizens are responsible for what they believe and how they perceive these beliefs. It is essential that we are skeptical of the stories we hear and sources we hear from, but also skeptical of these alternative facts that veer us from the truth. It is important to doubt, and always remember: “If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.”




The Internet and Publishing Mug Shots

By William Sullivan

The Internet Has Raised Questions on Publishing Mug Shots

A central principle of justice in the United States is that someone is innocent until proven guilty.  However, in the United States, mug shots of people arrested are usually considered public documents, even though the people in the photos have not been convicted or charged.

News outlets like the Chicago Tribune, NBC 5 Chicago and the Tampa Bay Times publish them on their websites, expanding the number of people who can see them.  Publishing mug shots raises serious ethical questions for the media.

Online, search engines can pull up results in fractions of a second.  When media outlets publish a mug shot a Google search will easily turn it up and it creates an online record of someone’s arrest.  That raises ethical questions.  By publishing names and photos of people arrested, is a media outlet jumping to judgment?  What if the crime was not a newsworthy event, like someone driving with a suspended license?

These questions do not have convenient answers.  With the advent of the internet, when mug shots are published online by media outlets, that information is readily found by the friends, family, potential landlords and employers of the arrested.  And information published on the internet is difficult or impossible to remove.  That makes the stakes very high for publishing mug shots.

The Chicago Tribune has a section on its website called Mugs in the News.  In it, the Tribune posts mug shots of people accused of crimes from stories they report.  The crimes people with mug shots are accused of range from homicide to road rage to marijuana possession.

Below every name, the Tribune has a disclaimer: “Arrest does not imply guilt, and criminal charges are merely accusations. A defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty and convicted.” On the slideshow view of the photos however, that text is in gray, on a dark gray background, which discourages viewers from reading the text.

NBC 5 Chicago has its own gallery, called Mug Shots in the News.  NBC does not even have a disclaimer that the people in the mug shots shown are merely accused.  NBC has not added mug shots since 2011, which raises questions about whether NBC journalists have been checking to see if those accused have been charged, convicted or found not guilty.

The Tampa Bay Times publishes mug shots on their website. They post mug shots of everyone arrested in four counties in the Tampa Bay Area.  They are able to do that because those four counties’ sheriffs put every mug shot online.  However, doing Google searches for the names of those arrested does not show their mug shots from the sheriff’s website, it shows their mug shot from the Tampa Bay Times. By publishing those mug shots, the Tampa Bay Times increases their visibility in search results.

In a 2016 lawsuit, three men in Illinois sued a website called mug shots.com and their sister website unpublisharrest.com, according to the New York Times. Unpublisharrest.com charges $399 to remove arrest photos and records from non-law enforcement sources on the internet. That includes from its sister site. A lawyer for the site used the Chicago Tribune’s Mugs in the News feature to defend the business practices of the sites.

Some in the media argue that mug shots should be released to the media and published.  In 2013 the Detroit Free press sued the Justice Department to get mug shots.  They were supported by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.  They lost their case in Federal Court, with the judge arguing that people have a “non-trivial privacy interest” in their mug shots.

A lawyer with The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press argued that releasing mug shots is a demonstration of open government principles and captures an important moment in the criminal process, that of arrest.  Yet that does not take into consideration the effects that releasing these mug shots, some from arrests for minor crimes, have on the people arrested.

If media outlets are going to publish mug shots, in the spirit of reporting correctly, they need to emphasize that the people in the mug shots are accused, not convicted.  And to be technically correct, they should differentiate between people who are arrested and people who are charged.  Not everyone who gets a mug shot photo taken is actually charged with a crime.

If media outlets are not explicit about this, they risk suggesting that the people in the mug shots they publish are guilty of the crime they were arrested for.

Even if mug shots are publicly available, that does not mean that media outlets should publish them.  There is a standard of whether or not a crime is newsworthy. Someone driving with a suspended license is not likely to be something worthy of media coverage.

There is a difference between the media publishing a mug shot of someone accused in a major news event, like a terrorist attack or a murder, and someone who was selling drugs on a small scale or driving with a suspended license.   Or if someone was found not guilty of a crime, their mug shot could slip through the cracks and remain on a media outlets website.

When the media was mostly in physical newsprint or on TV, publishing a mug shot was different. It was not possible to see the mug shot of someone arrested for a minor crime years ago with a quick search.  With the internet, what is published is more easily discovered, more permanent, and has more potential to damage the lives of private individuals who are arrested.  That requires media outlets to reevaluate how they handle the publication of mug shots.

The Media vs. The Public

By Varvara Makarevich

The media should do this! The media must do that! In the midst of accusations of reporting fake news, we hear it all the time. Dozens of communication scholars and current reporters discuss how the media should report, and what to do to change the audience’s perception.

However, I came across an interesting reaction last to a proposal I made to a possible subject of a story I was working on. I contacted a person whose experience I saw as a unique one, and who seemed to be the perfect match. The chosen topic for the story was related to legal immigration. Meaning, it could be a sensitive subject for the interviewee.

Taking this into consideration, I was nevertheless surprised when I was told that the interview was possible on the condition of showing the final draft to the interviewee and providing the opportunity to make changes. I believe this person had good intentions in mind, but the instincts of protecting the family and the fear of being portrayed subjectively did their job.

So, it seems that on the one hand the audience wants us, the reporters, to be more transparent, credible, trustworthy and reliable. On the other, when they are given a chance to become a part of the reporting process, people would like to be able to control the flow of the story and its outcome. Why? I believe I might be able to answer this question.

Apparently, the public doesn’t know exactly what reporting means, what ethical code we reporters should follow, or what the workflow looks like. Thus, some people may become victims of irresponsible and unethical reporters who ruin their trust forever. And by the time I come to interview them, they’re already afraid that the story would be biased, or/and that they won’t look good in the story.

But journalism isn’t about making people look good. It’s about telling their stories objectively without putting them in danger.

I believe, that like every two-way communication, journalism should have clear rules observed by both parties — the audience and the reporters. We know our job, so how can we build trust and educate people about what journalism is?

There might be a simple answer. We teach children about the Constitution and our system of government, and since the media is considered to be The Fourth Estate, why don’t we teach kids in schools how it works? I bet if you ask a regular person, he or she won’t be able to tell you in detail what it takes to report on a seemingly regular story. Not even mentioning the investigative pieces.

Let’s invite kids and their parents to our newsrooms, let’s promote opportunities to have a cup of coffee with a journalist for contest winners (it’s not that hard for a news outlet to have a contest on its Instagram or Twitter account), and let’s encourage people to look closer at our work. Let’s make them see we’re here to serve them, not to threaten them.

Yet still our job for some people looks crooked and somewhat parasitical. This is despite the fact that reporters hold elected politicians accountable, go to war zones to let us know what is happening — thus giving us more context than just an official’s statement — or do seemingly simple local stories that can change the life landscape of a whole neighborhood or even a town.

We’re not pursuing these stories just for our own self-interest, but in the interests of the people that read newspapers, watch TV, listen to the radio or surf the Web. In other words, in the interests of everyone. Let’s build our relationship based on mutual respect, not rivalry.

Time for journalism to evolve

By Arman Rahman

It is a strange and wondrous time for journalism. It is even more strange and wondrous to tell others you are going into journalism. A mix of excitement and pity swirls their face. “Ohhh, well you certainly chose the right time, there’s so many changes! With Trump and Fake News maybe you can be one of the better ones.”

Suddenly after Trump assumed the Presidency befuddling all in his wake, journalists became failed sages. Their mysterious rituals gave them the wrong prophecy, causing their audiences to turn to other sage tribes for an outlook they could agree with, in this case fake news.

The metaphor of “mysterious rituals,” while a sarcastic jab at critics, is worth noting. Only now are readers and viewers beginning to question and want to know more about the information others are producing for them. Hence the bottom line here: it’s time for journalism to evolve. It’s time for reporters to evolve and facilitate this evolution. It’s time for journalism to evolve in concrete, tangible ways, similar to those listed by Tom Rosenstiel in his Brookings Institute article from 2016. Rosenstiel lists a total of seven ways journalism must change post the 2016 Election, yet the most important and encompassing is the need for clearer and more open reporting. Only through this evolution can journalism begin reaching minds more quickly, with trust.

Reporting methods must not only be completely transparent, but they must involve the public, a process Rosenstiel calls “collaborative intelligence.” Gone are the days of “multiple sources indicate,” “an anonymous White House employee leaked,” or “studies show.” While before the public might have acknowledged these as legitimate, some news outlets have abused those attributions, or cited sources while siding with them wholeheartedly. For example, FOX News, in a March 3rd story, reported an Immigrations Customs and Enforcement raid in

California that was shut down by the state’s mayor. The headline read: “Violent criminals among illegal immigrants caught in California raid derailed by Dem mayor.” The only evidence to support the claim that “violent criminals” were among those arrested was a statement from ICE Director Tom Homan, who’s one and only job is to support his organization in its efforts against illegal immigration–an organization whose credibility has been repeatedly called into question. Meanwhile they ripped apart the Democratic mayor, discussing whether she “obstructed justice.”

On the flip side, MSNBC hardly reported the event at all as of the eve of March 3rd, and all stories listed under their “Immigration Policy” tab attack and negatively frame President Trump and/or his administration. While these may seem like two extremes, both were reflected in the outlets’ broadcasts, both of which sit at the top of the list of most watched cable news programs of the past month, according to TV Newser.

Almost all Americans subscribe to and agree with one outlet or the other, labeling “their opponent” as not reporting fairly, or not having good sources, or having a bias–all of which are completely valid for both when examined side to side. This disparity is so large that all journalists must discipline themselves to clearly set the standard. Stories should clearly display both sides of the argument or issue. Sources should only be used if they are credible and legitimate, otherwise any holes in their credibility or legitimacy should also be clearly displayed. A reader must be able to know, trust, and easily research any sources used in a story. Along with full transparency, the reader should not feel isolated from journalism, the basis for Rosenstiel’s concept of “collaborative intelligence.”

In the era of social media, journalists now have a powerful tool: more citizens who are there. If someone was able to get cellphone video, reach out to him to get more in better quality if you cannot shoot from the scene directly. If someone set up a crime watch Twitter page or blog for their neighborhood or area, follow that blog and ask them to remain extra vigilant and reveal anything they find on the blog or to you. Employ the use of unbiased social media polls in your work, such as Facebook or Twitter polls. All the while, be aware of the potential bias of who you are reaching out to. Bottom line, trust will be re-established with the public if they see journalists actively enlisting their support and actively watching out for biases. It will also cause more people to keep watch for the genuine truth in their daily lives.

All in all, it is pivotal to remember that journalists are not sages or mystical wordsmiths toying with information. They are average citizens in search of the truth, a journey everyone embarks on. With every journey, there is newer and harder terrain to traverse, new tools to use in different ways. It’s now time for journalism to invent new tools and use old tools in new ways. The truth will always need to work its way to the public, and journalism will always need to take it there. This isn’t even its final form.


“No, It’s not ‘OK’, News is a Necessity”

Shining a light through confusion and ambiguity


Karyn Lacey

Imagine this: A journalist and a citizen are waiting for the evening bus. They are sitting next to each other, on the bench, when the journalist decides to spark a conversation about today’s news.

The journalist turns slightly to the citizen and says, “Hi, excuse me. Did you catch the news today? I was just wondering what were your thoughts on…”

He is abruptly interrupted by the citizen. The woman asserts, “NO, NO, NO…I don’t watch the news.”

The journalist is puzzled…very puzzled. On the inside, he is screaming. He can’t believe or even fathom that she chooses not to watch the news.  So, he thinks to himself, ‘How do you not watch the news? The journalist calmly asks, “What do you mean you don’t watch the news?”               “I just don’t. It’s too sad. It’s always something about murder or negative stuff that makes me sad. Or everything is about Donald Trump. So, I just don’t watch it,” said the woman.

The irritated journalist says, “I’m sorry, but that’s a cop out. News is essential to our everyday life. And you know another thing…” He decides not to indulge in a journalistic rant, thus he says “Never mind. Have a good night ma’am.”

The journalist decides to walk home instead of taking the bus. As he walks, he ponders the baffling conversation he just had with the woman. You see, the journalist doesn’t understand how complacent and accepting she is about not watching the news, as if he asked her about the latest reality television show that burns your brain cells. He doesn’t understand why she was “OK” with that.




This is a conversation some journalists have encountered and observed many times throughout their journalism career. Whether it’s with a group of friends on a Friday night or at the dinner table with family members on Thanksgiving, there is always someone who expresses their disdain for the news.

Surely, there is plenty of bad news to go around: the dramatics of the 2016 presidential election, Russia, North Korea, gun violence, immigration, local township scandals, the Flint water crisis, corrupt politicians. However, the job of journalists is not about delivering “bad news.” The true purpose is to make individuals within communities, nations and the world aware and knowledgeable of the things around them.

Because of the climate of journalism, the comments of President Donald Trump and his supporters, citizens are leery of believing news outlets nowadays. Understandably, not knowing what to believe is troubling. Still, journalists aren’t here to tell people what to believe. Only the public can decide what to presume as the truth. Journalists are merely here to gather and deliver the facts.

Just as citizens would check the weather channel or weather app to find out if they can wear shorts and flip-flops or a winter coat, check the news. Watch the local newscast to find out what the local school board is up to, if there are robberies being reported in the neighborhood, or who is running to be the next elected official.

With that said, should the journalist having the conversation with the woman just walk away or try to be her news savior and bring her to the journalism altar? Should the journalist debate their point about why it’s important to watch the news?  Or simply let them continue to go about their lives unaware of the world? I mean, the public is who journalists serve, right?

Yes, they are serving those individuals who are avid readers and watchers of the news. But what about the people who are disengaged intentionally? Today, the news is easy to obtain because it’s everywhere. Therefore, it is no excuse to deliberately be unaware of the world.

All in all, no, journalists should not be “OK” with individuals not watching, reading, or even caring about what’s in the news. Surely, it is frustrating to hear people say they don’t read or watch the news. Nevertheless, a journalist’s job is make the public aware about what’s occurring in their backyards. If someone is unaware of what’s going on in their neighborhood, then it is the journalists job to enlighten them. They are the shining light through confusion and ambiguity.

Therefore, journalists must persist in the good fight until their last sleepless night. Because news is a necessity, not an option.