Religion has influenced personal politics for many. So why isn’t it being covered?

By Richie Requena

Journalists are proud of their First Amendment right, which guarantees the freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The First Amendment also covers the freedom of religion ensuring that people of faith can exercise their religion without fear of persecution. Religion is a very personal topic to those who practice it. So why isn’t it being covered as much as other topics?

As journalists, the most important thing to do is to get it right. And again, because it is a personal and intimate topic for believers, the consequences of getting it wrong could receive harsh backlash.

Telling a story by painting with the same brush can also be very dangerous. Many Americans can remember just how unfairly Muslims were treated in this country and abroad when it comes to topics of terrorism for the acts of 9/11 and other terror attacks in the Middle East and Europe.

Reporting on religion can be scarce, and does not need to be limited to scandals. Journalists need to be aware of the context and timing that show how faith believers are influenced by what they cover. Not all religious stories need to be serious news topics either.

Religion’s influence on politics has divided people based on what they believe in. Views on abortion, COVID-19 vaccination hesitancy, same-sex marriage, capital punishment— among other controversial political beliefs often can be traced back to a person’s religious background.

According to a Pew Research Center survey, younger generations around the world are becoming more and more secular; meaning they do not identify with any religion. Journalists should be able to ask why that is. Do younger generations not agree with the views and stances religious leaders have? Are institutions, like the Catholic church, simply out of touch with the times?

Because there are so many religions and ideologies in the world, it is challenging to even find out who we should ask these questions to. It is important for journalists and editors to be intentional with who we listen to and what stories we pursue. As calls for more diversity, equity and inclusion tactics for hiring have expanded in the country, it is just as important that we consider religion as a topic.

Just as we would not talk to one person of color for a story that touches on race, it is important we have a rich diversity of religious experts we can turn to. We know that not everyone thinks the same, making the intentional decision that shows the depth and context to religion can make a story about religion come to life and be more representative.

Just to show how different a religious group can be, white Catholics and Hispanic Catholics practice the same religion, but have very different political leanings. Hispanic Catholics tend to be more socially conservative than white Catholics, but when it comes to the voting booth Hispanic Catholics consistently vote for Democrats while white Catholics lean Republican.

Reporting on how times have changed for religion is also vital to show why they have changed. Take for example the topic of same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court recognized those unions. It was a very dividing topic even for people in the same religion. Now a days there is a lot more acceptance of same-sex marriage compared to even a decade ago. The big question there to ask is how has religion changed since then?

We as journalists need to do a better job of reporting on religion. We have seen what dangers it can do when things are not  reported right. Following 9/11, Islamophobic attack skyrocketed because of the fear extremist had against Muslims. The perspective and beliefs of Muslims have been buried by Islamophobia. Bringing in more Muslim reporters and experts to get their perspectives can be the step to make them more familiar to people who have never seen Islam practiced.

And that is what reporting on religion can do. Religious reporters don’t have to report on sermons and scandals that catch the eye of an audience for a day or two. Sometimes the best stories can be the simple ones that capture life as it is, because those are the ones that show us that we are all human.

-30-

The paradox of a people-pleaser entering one of the most hated professions

by Sadie Fisher

A part of me has always wanted to be a journalist.

I was given the American Girl doll Kit Kittredge for Christmas when I was three. Kit grew up during the Great Depression, and even at the age of 10, she was reporting on the stories in her town and trying to get published in her local newspaper.

I think that gift sealed my fate.

However, there is a paradox that comes with my wanting to be a journalist: I am a chronic people-pleaser. The irony of being a people-pleaser entering one of the most hated professions in the world isn’t lost on me. The public’s opinion of journalists has only gotten worse over the last few years — and that opinion didn’t start highly either.

In the world of “fake news,” journalists are viewed as the enemy of the people. It is not uncommon for people to read or hear a news story with staunch evidence and decide that it is simply not true. This has only been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic and conspiracies surrounding the virus, masks, and the vaccine.

It’s hard to see work you put 110% of your effort in to be picked apart because someone simply doesn’t agree with it. So how do I combat this? How do I take care of myself while entering a field where I am not well-liked by some?

One of the most important lessons I’ve had to learn is that it isn’t about me.Even though I put so much of myself into the stories I produce – it isn’t about me. It’s about producing a story that is ethical, factual, and fair.

At the end of the day, the reason I wanted to become a reporter isn’t to fulfill my ego or feel good about myself.

I’m going into journalism because I want the public to be informed and to tell stories that people should and need to hear.  I want to elevate the voices of those that may not always have a platform to share their stories.  I want to keep those in the public domain accountable for their actions and make sure everyone knows what is going on in their communities and the world.

And with this, I know that some people won’t like what I’ve reported on.

It can sting to not have people like you or the work you put so much time and effort into. But if my goal is to please everyone and make every single person happy with the stories I produce – I will be fighting a never-ending battle for the rest of my career.

This lesson is one I learned firsthand this summer. I interned at the TV news station in my hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin – the news station I grew up watching that helped fuel my love for news.  I was able to see firsthand just how hard it is in this industry to please people.  It didn’t matter if I was doing a story on the FDA’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine or a fun story about a local zoo welcoming a baby giraffe – a viewer would find something to complain about.  Some viewers would even call if they didn’t like our outfit or our hair.

I quickly learned to never read the Facebook comments on a story I reported.  Criticism – whether warranted or not – is just a part of being a journalist.  And while that may be a hard pill to swallow – it’s something that will kill me if I don’t swallow it.

The main goal I need to have is to produce truthful stories with ethics at the forefront.  I must strive for accuracy and objectivity – not my own sense of fulfillment.  However, I have to keep in mind that I can’t completely ignore my needs and happiness.

The recent conversations surrounding mental health, and how important it is as journalists to keep ours in mind, has only made me more aware of my people-pleasing tendencies.  I must listen to myself and recognize when it’s too much and need a break or someone to talk to.

While it’s important to exert full effort for the sake of objectivity – we as journalists can’t completely give ourselves to our jobs.  We can’t put ourselves and our effort into our work if there is nothing for us to give.  It is a balancing act that I am currently learning and will continue to learn for the rest of my career.

I will never please every person with my stories – and I can’t compromise my happiness to achieve it.  But for what it’s worth – I think three-year-old Sadie would be happy (and pleased) with where I am now.

 

-30-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newsrooms should reflect the communities journalists serve

By Maria Marta Guzman

At a young age, I never struggled to answer the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” My response was always a ‘periodista’…a journalist.

My earliest memory of journalism was when I was 11 years old watching Univision’s 5:00 p.m. newscast alongside my mother coming home from a long day of work at a local factory.

I remember flipping to the Univision channel and watching Latino anchors like Jorge Ramos and María Elena Salinas delivering the latest stories of the Latino community.

These moments were the foundation of my passion and interest for journalism.

For me, the afternoon newscast was more than just watching the news. Rather it was feeling represented in the stories that were told by other Latino journalists that looked like me.

Through Ramos and Salinas, I saw 11-year-old immigrant Maria from Nicaragua be represented in the news.

Ten years later, as a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) and president of DePaul’s NAHJ chapter, I’ve come to learn the value and importance of proper representation in the media — and not only for Latinos but for different ethnicities as well.

A 2020 research case from the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) organization shows that Hispanic Latinos make up 10% of newsrooms, while Caucasians comprise 73.4%.

You might ask yourself why the Hispanic Latino representation in the media matters, and it matters because the Hispanic Latino population has developed to be the majority of the minority groups in the United States.

According to the 2020 U.S Census, the Hispanic Latino population was the second-largest racial or ethnic group in the country. The Hispanic Latino population is not only growing nationwide but also locally. The Chicago Tribune reported that the Hispanic Latino population in the city surpassed the Black population for the first time ever.

As journalists our duty is to report on the stories of our community and those living in it.

Therefore, if our communities are made of different voices coming from all nationalities and walks of life, should newsrooms not reflect that as well?

Yes, they should. Chicago is made up of Whites, Blacks or African Americans, Asians, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, other Pacific Islanders and Hispanic Latinos.

As the population and demography of the U.S. changes, so will the stories and newsrooms need to be ready for that change.

This year alone, a wide range of Latino centered stories have made headlines.

From the mass migrant surge at the U.S.-Mexico border to legal challenges in DACA and anti-government protests in Cuba, newsrooms ought to be ready to accurately cover these stories by proper portrayal.

Journalists should be capable of covering any story that can arise despite one’s background differences. But the reality is that many journalists don’t know how to accurately and properly cover stories of different communities and backgrounds.

For example, a non-Hispanic Latino English speaking reporter might not cover communities of color like Little Village, Pilsen, Belmont Cragin or Humboldt Park as thoroughly as a Hispanic Latino Spanish speaking reporter due to the language differences and cultural awareness.

Think about it this way, you are a news director at a local station sending a journalist out to cover the border crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

You have one non-Hispanic Latino English speaking reporter who knows the basic information occurring at the border crisis but does not speak the same language as the migrants at the border do— Spanish.

While, on the other hand you have a Hispanic Latino Spanish speaking reporter who does speak the same language as the migrants and knows the in-depth story and challenges the migrants are facing from experience.

Who would you send? Most likely you would send the Hispanic Latino Spanish speaking reporter with an in-depth knowledge of immigration.

It’s not to say that the English-speaking reporter is incapable of covering the border crisis, they probably are.

But it’s the Hispanic Latino Spanish speaking reporter who has the advantage of directly speaking to the migrants with no translators needed. It’s the Spanish speaking reporter who has the benefit of getting interviews with sources that other news stations are unable to get.

This is one of the many occurrences and examples why Hispanic Latino representation in newsrooms is needed and matters.

Journalism is a public service. Appropriate Hispanic Latino representation is needed in our newsroom not only because there is a lack of it, but because better story coverage is needed.

-30-

There Is No Room for History to Repeat Itself in Journalism

by Ally Daskalopoulos

I was 6 years old when terrorists attacked the twin towers on 9/11/2001, and I remember that day vividly. I was sitting in my kindergarten classroom watching the look on my teacher’s face. She was crying. All the students were soon brought together in a big room, used only for important events or meetings. It was cold, and voices always echoed off the walls. It was called the multi-purpose room. I remember thinking something bad was going to happen. Little did I know, it already had.

At 6, I knew smoke was bad. I knew fire was bad. I knew buildings falling were dangerous. Except, I couldn’t put the pieces together. It was like a puzzle. That was before I knew where New York or Afghanistan is located. It was before I knew the circumstances around those events, and it was well before I knew I wanted to be a journalist.

This year marked 20 years after 9/11, and the puzzle remains with lots of unanswered questions about that day including, who all the victims of 9/11 really were. The world is a different place, and now I am a journalist and I understand more about what happened on that day. So many catastrophes and disasters have happened in the past two decades, but for whatever reason, 9/11 remains the most common comparison for journalists who should be more cautious in language used to relate one tragedy and its casualties to another.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve heard comparisons to 9/11 everywhere. Originally, it was a disturbance. “The greatest disruption to American life since 9/11,” as Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes said.  As the pandemic progressed, many lost their lives to the virus. In turn, the comparison spread. A 9/11 every two days has described the rising number of COVID-19 casualties. This parallel is not fair, yet it keeps happening over, and over, and over again.

The time has come for journalists stop this comparison and be more cautious with language used.

The number of people who were killed on 9/11 is nowhere near the ongoing number of people who lost their lives to COVID-19. This reality is inevitable when a virus like COVID-19 spreads rampantly. However, the number of casualties has almost become a unit of measure deemed acceptable by the media.

Specific historical tragedies with mass casualties like 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, earthquakes, or refugee crises should not be compared as casually as they are. Not only are they sensitive subjects, but they are a part of history that should be left to rest.

It is often said that history sometimes repeats itself. We have seen that with the current pandemic and past pandemics. While comparing pandemics seems like a more logical comparison, we can’t say for certain that they are the same. Often viewed as a rather creative comparison, the 9/11 parallel is usually seen in opinion pieces. Yet, the determination of pursuing the parallel lives on. When historical comparisons evaluating our present circumstances are made, a lack of context can creep in, which can become dangerous for future generations.

On 9/11, I came home from school, and I watched the adults around me transfixed to the TV, not even blinking. My mother had a look of horror on her face that I don’t think I’ve seen since that day. I was scared and I remember always being scared as a child. I was afraid of doing something wrong, afraid of people, of strangers, afraid of anything bad happening. Today, I’m still afraid of those things, but I’m afraid of so much more. I’m afraid that the memory of 9/11 will be forever altered, I fear the way we measure what qualifies as a public disturbance is going to accidentally trivialize valid trauma. Yet, I’m more afraid of what the public is given to contextualize.

As journalists, it’s our responsibility to minimize harm. This includes being respectful to those who lost their lives on 9/11 and being considerate to those mourning the loss of a loved one due to COVID-19. The world will never forget the COVID-19 pandemic. Simply extracting the numbers to make sense of a phenomenon that we can’t yet understand is not acceptable. As journalists, we can do better. There’s no reason why we cannot expand our minds further than just focusing on the past. It’s journalism’s responsibility to slow down and be more mindful with our history and word choices. By paying attention to the details, perhaps the fallen can rest peacefully, without comparison.

 

-30-

The Future of Funding for the U.S. Free Press

By Elly Boes

This year, veteran journalists from my hometown announced Nebraska’s first statewide independent, non-profit news organization, the Flatwater Free Press. Like any good reporter, I immediately texted my mum.

“One of the founders looked familiar, Kent Warneke who ran the Norfolk Daily News,” I wrote, adding, “made me think of grandpa.”

Every Sunday, my mum and I would visit her dad to have tea and read the latest edition of the Norfolk Daily News, a small newspaper he borrowed from our public library each week for over 30 years.

“Oh my gosh that is wonderful Elly!! He ran a great paper,” my mum replied.

It was the first good news I’d seen about the news industry in months.

Since the pandemic began, it’s estimated that thousands of newsroom employees were furloughed, laid-off or received pay cuts, particularly in print media.

In digital newsrooms, however, employment rates rose 144 percent between 2008 and 2020, according to the Pew Research Center. The Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) saw audience engagement and revenue increase with 43 percent more web traffic directed to non-profit news sites in 2020 compared to previous studies.

As non-profit models see increased success, national policymakers are beginning to catch up, begging the question—what funding best serves the future of the free press in the United States?

One option currently on the table is federal government intervention.

First introduced in 2020, “The Local Journalism Sustainability Act” garnered bipartisan support in recent months, offering tax credits for local news’ subscribers and advertisers as well as compensation for journalists.

While financial assistance would be available to both for-profit and non-profit organizations, critics of the bill argue it won’t address the inherent inequities in local journalism, and rightly so.

Currently lacking in the bill is any discussion around failed advertising models, which often result in major newspaper buyouts by private equity firms like Alden Global Capital, which now owns The Chicago Tribune among others.

Such changes have left non-profits with largely freelance staff. These employees may be excluded from the bill due to a requirement that compensation can only be paid to a local journalist who works at least 100 hours over a three-month period.

Additionally, subscription and funded efforts by Congress may leave minority-owned newsrooms with unequal financial support. A study by SHE Media found less than 15 percentof under-represented publishers saw increased ad-revenue support despite corporate promises to equalize spending since 2020.

But it isn’t just newsrooms that suffer without consistent funding amid a crisis. When the last recession hit in 2008, both my parents and grandparents cancelled our newspaper subscriptions because they were too expensive.

Like other Americans, we turned on broadcast news instead, leaving many of our local newspapers in distress or under new ownership.

Yet non-profit news organizations—both digital and print—are more than surviving this pandemic.

A 2017 study by the Media Insight Project found that just 54 percent of its 2,199 participants paid for access to local news.

Yet the latest data from INN observed that two-thirds of all newsrooms surveyed over the last year received increased individual donations.

Still, major contributions—of $5,000 or more—make up the majority of funding for non-profit models, both in individual and foundational giving.

Given this—and the havoc wreaked on journalism by COVID-19—it’s unclear how sustainable any local news organization will be without any assistance from state or federal grants.

Despite ethical concerns, government assistance for the free press has been employedmany times in the past, including the beginning of the pandemic. The Paycheck Protection Program—or PPP, an example of crisis funding—provided newsrooms with wage relief but disqualified many local papers because they are owned by larger companies.

It’s important to note here that most non-profit news organizations—like Nebraska’s Flatwater Free Press—establish themselves in local markets because other legacy papers don’t have the resources to cover specific investigative or community needs.

Like my grandpa, this means audiences seeking free news alternatives during a crisis most often find them at public institutions, such as libraries, or online.

To Matt Hansen, founding editor of the Flatwater Free Press, non-profit models with funding from a variety of sources are key to keeping the free press not only accessible but alive and well.

“The early indications of success in fundraising have really blown me away,” Hansen said in an interview with Nebraska Public Media. “It becomes very clear very quickly, when you got any talk about this project, or projects like this, that people understand the need for this in a way that surprises even me.”

 

-30-

 

 

 

The Pride Behind “Ni de aqui, Ni de alla” and Advocacy Journalism with María Elena Salinas

By: Izabella Grimaldo

A voice that isn’t “ni de aqui ni de alla”- not from here nor there, but from both- María Elena Salinas is one of the best-known news anchors in broadcast journalism. Having immeasurable amounts of experiences with Univision allowed her to develop as a professional and as an individual to showcase the passion she had, which later became her duty to fulfill.

Salinas spent almost four decades at Univision as an anchor and reporter where she showcased the issues, heroes and sheroes the Hispanic community in the U.S had to offer. In 2019, after her time at Univision, she became a news contributor to CBS News, highlighting issues that emphasized the importance of the Latino vote throughout the country.

A pioneer in her field, Salinas assures she is not lonely at the top and is only accompanied by the best: her colleagues and her community. She has paved the way to further expand the narrative of Latinos in the U.S through her duty and passion.

“It’s not lonely at the top because they have a lot of people, especially journalists that have done great things…I think we’re all committed to our community. That’s just something that’s innate enough,” said Salinas.

She was raised in a family that was a reflection of the millions of working-class individuals in Southern California. Salinas held on to the constant narrative a lot of Chicanos hold onto- ni de aqui ni de alla– not from one place or the other. The reality is you won’t ever fit into just one community, you will always fit in two. Which makes you twice more of whatever you want to be, twice as smart, twice as hardworking, and twice as talented.

The story of Latinos in the U.S has evolved so much over time, from a growing population to our stories that unfold over time.

“I think that we have made a mark in this country, as a Latino community. But not enough yet. I think there’s so much more room for growth, because one of the challenges that we have going forward is that we are the largest minority in the country. We are the second largest voting bloc in the country. Yet sometimes we’re treated as if we were foreigners in our own country,” said Salinas.

To search for normality means assimilating and accommodating to a country that dims the light of others. Your duty as a journalist is to create a platform and advocate for those lights to be at least a little brighter.

“I know that for years, we were accused of advocacy journalism, as if advocacy journalism was something bad. And it’s not. Because it’s one thing to be an activist. Another thing is to be an advocate. People don’t realize it, but when you advocate for something, if you cover women’s issues, you’re advocating for women,” said Salinas, “So what is the difference between advocating for your community? It’s a much larger group, of course, but I think it’s important to do so. And I don’t think that there is anything wrong with advocacy journalism, with pointing out our trials and tribulations in the media. It’s not something that we should be ashamed of, on the contrary, I think it’s something that we should be proud of.”

The topic of having pride was and always will be a point of conversation among all U.S born Latinos, especially those who have had the opportunity to advance within their community. The tradition of carrying your pride in everything you do is dependent on those who have done it for far more years. As they build this tradition, they build a platform for younger generations to gain the confidence to continue. Making it easier to say- no eres de aqui ni de allá, pero de los dos– y con orgullo.

“Use your voice, don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not good enough and don’t be afraid. That’s one of the best pieces of advice that I can give is don’t give up because fear paralyzes us…Just think what would you do if you weren’t afraid? And just think of the possibilities. Échale ganas, go for it, y no te dejes. Never allow anyone to tell you that you are not good enough or smart enough. Because you are,” said Salinas.

 

-30-

History’s unique repetition, and other musings from a couple of corn-fed Bama boys

By Marcus Robertson

In some ways, the news is the same today as it’s always been: full of people looking to make a difference in their communities.

“We have a simple mission,” Chicago news legend Steve Sanders told me. “Tell the damn truth.”

Sanders, the longtime anchor for WGN, has had a long, impactful career in journalism that many could only hope for. And although we’re from different eras, Sanders shows how across time, journalists are cut from much of the same cloth.

He got into the field after being “entranced” by ABC’s coverage of Watergate in 1972. He felt a moral call, and what he saw on TV inspired him. Here was an American president – a wartime one, at that – whose corruption was being uncovered and aired every night in prime time. Journalists were to thank for that, and Sanders wanted in.

I can’t help but think about the parallels between Sanders’s journalistic upbringing and mine. We were both drawn by a sense of civic duty, and we were both inspired by seismic political stories (mine was the story of Russian ties to the 2016 election of Donald Trump). Then there’s the “Southern thing”: Sanders and I are a couple of college dropouts from Alabama, albeit separated by a few years.

As a young man, Sanders saw the evolution of George Wallace from a fairly progressive lawyer and judge into a staunch segregationist when his first run for governor floundered against a race-baiting opponent. Similarly, I watched as Trump morphed from a self-professed New York democrat into an anti-immigration conservative populist.

“I’m afraid he was a proof of concept,” Sanders said of Trump’s ambition-fueled political shapeshifting. I don’t disagree, but I think Wallace deserves some of the credit: not only did he adopt a racist ideology in order to win power, he also later pulled a complete reversal when it became apparent he wouldn’t win otherwise. It worked.

Despite all the ways the news is the same is ever, the obvious fact is that the industry has changed enormously in the last two or three decades.

“For this new generation, the news is harder than it was in my day,” Sanders said. “There are fewer resources for a lot of news organizations, and fewer staff members. So you end up having to work harder to reach fewer people than I did.”

I have no doubt he’s right. I expect my writing career to be hard, and my job prospects to be uncertain at times. But according to Sanders, I have a leg up on my peers; a “geographic advantage,” as he put it.

“As Alabamans, we’re natural storytellers,” he said. “We grew up telling stories on the front porch, always competing to see who could tell the best one.”

Sanders retired as arguably the reigning champion of the front porch, the South’s finest storyteller.

I bet the crown is just my size.

Doing something different everyday –– journalism is a lifelong career of new somethings

by Rebecca Meluch

Doctors study medicine. Historians study history. Lawyers study the law. And journalists, well, they have to be prepared to study anything and everything.

Before she became a Washington Post political columnist, Karen Tumulty covered Congress, the White House, economics, business and elected officials for the now defunct San Antonio Light, Los Angeles Times, TIME Magazine, and The Post.

Growing up, Tumulty knew she wanted a career that would be different every day and allow her to learn more about people, “Well, I think I was just curious, and I really wanted a job that wasn’t going to be the same thing day in and day out. And certainly, journalism has been that,” she said.

After Tumulty left the San Antonio Light, she became a political correspondent for TIME Magazine in 1994. She said that the transition between the two really forced her to evolve.

“I learned you really have to be flexible,” she said. “It was still a magazine that came out once a week. So, your whole metabolism was gearing it, you spent the whole week gearing up for whatever you were going to be turning in on Friday, it was a different process.”

During her career, Tumulty has worked on many long-term projects like reporting on the changing politics in West Virginia to tracking down a Vietnam veteran who gave former President Obama a military patch in a hotel elevator during his campaign in 2008.

But the real challenge for Tumulty was writing and publishing a book.

I observed that Tumulty’s weekly columns typically span between 600 and 900 words. Her book, “The Triumphs of Nancy Reagan” is over 600 pages.

 “So, I, to tell you the truth , didn’t know all that much what I was doing,” she said. Although Tumulty has been in the journalism industry for over 40 years, writing a book was a tremendous learning experience –– literally. She spent at least two years just researching about Nancy Reagan, and the entire publishing process culminated to four and a half years.

The idea of writing the book wasn’t her own and prior to writing it, she didn’t realize how complex a person the former first lady was, but she was up for the task and for something new.

“Nancy Reagan, this wasn’t my idea. It was an idea that my publisher Simon and Schuster came up with. And they came to me and said, ‘Do you want to write this book,’” Tumulty said.  “But I just really had no idea how complex a person she was going to be, or, you know, all the many, many ways that she influenced policy, which is not something we necessarily associate with our first ladies.”

Two to three sources may do the trick for a 600 to 900 word story, I can only imagine the amount it takes for a 600 page book. To write a book about Reagan, Tumulty needed to interview people who may have known her while she was first lady –– and that itself was also a challenge.

Nancy Reagan passed away in 2016 at 95 years old. Some of the people Tumulty interviewed about Reagan were also in their 90s, like George Shultz who was Secretary of State at the time of Reagan’s presidency. “He [Shultz] was 97 years old when I talked to him,” Tumulty said.  “In fact, he just died a few months ago, at the age of 100. There were a number of people I talked to like that, you know, really, we’re coming to the end of their lives. And I think, in some cases, [they] decided they were going to tell these stories now or the stories were never going to get told.”

The book-writing process was long and challenging but for Tumulty, it was something new and different from writing a column. Journalists sometimes need something new.

“I really think that a mix is the most satisfying. On the one hand, you get the real rush of doing something right on deadline,” Tumulty said. “But I really would go crazy if that is all I did. I would also go crazy if four and a half year projects were all I did too. So, I really do love having a mix of things. I think it sort of keeps me on my toes and keeps me fresh.”

Journalism is a forever evolving industry that requires the people in it to adapt and try new things. As a young journalist, I don’t know yet where this career will take me, and I find that terrifying.

But if someone like Tumulty, who has been in the industry for over 40 years, is still curious, learning and reporting in new ways –– I know that I too, must keep an open mind.

I’m not quite ready to write a book though.

-30-

 

 

 

 

Going Back to Basics with Rehema Ellis

By Becky Budds

NBC’s Rehema Ellis wasn’t born knowing how to cover stories like Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 though her poise and skill make it seem like that. What prepared her is something she learned from legendary broadcaster Roger Mudd who said, “report what you know. And if you don’t know something, don’t pretend like you do.”

This advice has served her well during her 40 years in the business. After graduating college, Ellis got her start at KDKA TV and radio in Pittsburgh, eventually moving to WHDH-TV in Boston, and finally landing at NBC News in 1994. In 2010, she was named the chief education correspondent on NBC’s Nightly News where I’ve watched her countless times on my TV.

I always thought there was a special secret to becoming a wildly successful journalist like Rehema Ellis. Something professors don’t tell you in JOUR 101 and 102, a code you can only crack by being the best. But through my conversation with her I realized that simplicity and adherence to fundamental principles is all you need. They call it “going back to basics”—a return to a simpler way of doing something or thinking about something.

In journalism that means asking those 5 W’s and an H. “Who, what, when, where, how and why. If those questions are asked, every single time you will get to the truth,” said Ellis. And getting to the truth, she says, has never been more important.

As media literacy falls and the lines between opinion and facts are blurred every day, it’s a journalist’s job and duty to be as unbiased and accurate as possible. “It’s not my job to speculate, it’s not my job to imagine, it’s not my job. I’m not a pundit, I’m not a columnist. I am a reporter,” she said. “So, I want to report on what I know. What I see. And I leave it to other people to draw conclusions about the information that they have been given.”

What may seem obvious, can be easy to forget. Everyday there are journalists who voice their opinions online or forget to verify information. There are journalists who aren’t asking the right questions. That’s why Ellis says it’s important to “read, read, read, and read some more.” Politicians will constantly try to spin you and inflate the truth, so “it’s important to exhaust yourself with material and be prepared to almost know the answer to the questions you’re asking,” she said.

Stressing again how important it is to stay unbiased, she says it’s important to read things you like and things you don’t agree with. Read everything and read it often. In order to better be a better reporter, “it’s important to know the opinions that are out there,” she said. The viewers will thank you for it.

Ellis says her days at NBC differ greatly from those at KDKA and WHDH-TV. At local stations, there are morning shifts and night shifts. But “when you get on to the network, you are the shift. From the beginning until the story is over,” she said. “It’s very tiring. It’s very taxing. But it can be very rewarding because you feel like you own that story. And so, at the end of the day, no one is more tuned into that story than you.”

Ellis’ experiences covering Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, the Haiti earthquake and more, taught her that journalism is a lot like fighting fires. “We go where there is a fire. We put the fire out and then we leave, she said. “We never tell you what it takes to rebuild. We never tell you the long lasting and sustained agony and pain and anguish, that’s day to day. We don’t do that because the definition of news is what’s happening now.”

It’s a reminder that we don’t always have the answers to every problem and that behind the headlines are human beings.

If you watch any of Ellis’ stories, it’s no surprise that her trophy shelf is stocked full. Throughout her career she’s received many awards for her storytelling such as local and national Emmys, Edward R. Murrow Awards, Associated Press awards and awards from the National Association of Black Journalists. She’s also a recipient of an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Journalism. Awards that an aspiring journalist like me could only dream of.

At the end of our call. She cautioned me about success and left me with this, “Awards and accolades are wonderful, but they just are not very comfortable to sleep with,” she said. “At the end of the day, I hope that you make certain that you have a full life. Because the fullness of your life will enhance the intensity of your reporting.”

But they don’t teach you how to have a full life in a textbook or a classroom. That’s something we as young journalists must find out on our own. And in an industry filled with long hours, strict deadlines, and a never-ending news cycle, that can be hard to do.

But no matter where I’m at in my career, I’ll always remember to go back to basics: stick to the facts, report what you know, and read constantly.

-30-

How an Eight-year-old Discovered a Problem in Newsrooms Before Even Getting to One

By: Izabella Grimaldo

One of the first times I walked into a newsroom was at CBS Chicago at eight-years-old. I stepped out of my westside bubble and stumbled into Chicago’s downtown- a place where suits and heels were the norm compared to the working boots back home.

I started feeling the pressure of being a first-generation student younger than eight years old, but with the pressure came the good grades and with the good grades came the free field trips. Honor roll students from Schubert Elementary school got the chance to go to CBS Chicago with one parent, have lunch with journalists and walk-through CBS Chicago’s offices.

The nerves were getting to me-with a million butterflies in my stomach- at the mention of my father’s name and mine to walk in. “Adrian and Izabella Grimaldo? You can go in now!” My heart skipped a beat. We walked over to talk to the anchors and reporters, but I remember turning away and seeing the newsroom in full action and falling in love for the first time at eight-years-old.

My relationship with news was strictly in Spanish, with Univision always on at home.  After seeing the demand, the pressure, the high-paced environment, I knew I wanted to be here, but most importantly needed to be here because no one else like me was. The room was filled with well-educated journalists, who spoke so eloquently. The only ones close to the resemblance of my dad and I were the maintenance staff who happily greeted us with “Hola, muy Buenos Dias!”- that felt like home.

I was just a child when I learned “Educated” and “Educado” are a direct translation of each other but have a very different meaning in the English and Spanish languages.  I was raised to always be Educada, well-mannered and polite. Though as I grew up, “educated” was having the highest degree you could meet and flaunt how you worked to get there.

The maintenance staff were Educados; they were kind and worked so hard surrounded by a group of people who often ignored them. I found myself torn between being next to the people who gave me a home away from home and being with those who looked at me funny for smiling at them and speaking Spanish that day, torn between being Educated and Educada.

When I decided on starting a career in journalism, I had one thing pushing me to stay-regardless of the many experiences telling me to leave: Be the person you wanted to see when you were eight years old in that newsroom. Be the one to demand representation and understanding of the diverse communities in the city.

Over 20 percent of the population in the U.S is Hispanic, with only 7.8 percent of Hispanics in newsrooms. The fact is local reporting from a diverse team is vital to journalism. It is not, however, a battle between Latino and U.S. journalism; it’s just journalism, serving the public no matter who that is.

The transitions in these communities from first-generation to second and third are happening fast and it is up to newsrooms to adapt to these changes. This starts by creating opportunities for Latinos to enter newsrooms and be there for their communities. To advocate for their stories and build a bridge of trust and communications with the community and the media.

I knew that I was an idealist- eager to tackle an issue that was far bigger than me- but now at 22 I can happily say I still hold the heart and hope an eight-year-old Latina from the West Side held then. Still demanding, still building, and still hoping for a space my colleagues and I can grow. Space where I could be both educated and educada, just as my community taught me.

-30-