Just when you think you know, you don’t.

by Tiffany Payton

Journalist at NBC News and DePaul alumna, Chloe Atkins, has always had a love for writing. But Atkins notes, that this “road to success” was nontraditional and “not as glamourous as everyone thinks.”

Atkins currently covers abortion access and breaking news. Atkins’ wide array of storytelling began during her time as a college student. She started her career as a fashion and women’s health writer at Vogue and credits her time at DePaul as what shaped her into the reporter she is today.

“For me, during my experience, the professors at DePaul were so gracious to those who wanted to learn. This business is all about learning. Just when you think you know, you don’t. I try to keep that same inquisitiveness with every story I’m on. It’s a part of it.”

During her time at Vogue, Atkins pushed out stories every day under tight deadlines. Atkins would begin her day talking to activists, women, and reproduction experts on both sides of her story. Those connections with Vogue helped her cover the abortion care debate in America by understanding how to cover a topic that encompasses many oppositional voices. Today, she covers abortion access at a critical juncture with the possible overturning by the U.S. Supreme Court of the landmark legal decision of Roe vs. Wade.

Topics of women’s health can be daunting when you’re a woman reporting it because it affects you directly.  There are two very different sides to the abortion debate and Atkins says she reports the truth “no matter what.”

“At the end of the day, a job of a journalist is to stand on the truth and include a variety of opinions,” Atkins said. “Everyone  will have an opinion. Your job is to include these opinions, but fact-check everything you get from a source and report. You cannot weigh your personal feelings in your reporting. The truth and the truth only,” Atkins added.

Truth-telling is the heartbeat of journalism, our audiences trust us to do just that. “If someone tells you it’s raining, as a journalist, you can’t just believe it’s raining. You have to go outside and check to see if it’s raining,” Atkins remarked.

As a journalist, there’s no limit to what you’re going to report on, but you must do it. “That’s your duty. You can’t get too emotionally involved in a story. Truth-telling is not about emotion, it’s about the truth and what affects the general public.”

Atkins stresses how crucial objective reporting is, and how you must balance your personal life with that. “Don’t get involved in a story because it can affect you. As reporters, we all have stories to tell, but audiences, do not have the same experiences and that’s important so you must be cognizant of that. But regardless of how someone personally feels, each day you go home you will feel great that you told the story in truth.”

The truth in storytelling should always enable the reader to fully understand all the information and facts as well as opposing sides of any story. The truth is what the audience deserves and that’s how you build trust with your audience. You cannot build trust without the truth.

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Journalists need to be ‘good’ at telling ‘bad’ news

Fox News’ John Roberts sheds light on how to let viewers down easy

By Hayley DeSilva

When the pandemic first broke out in 2020, our eyes were glued to our screens.

Trying to get whatever information we could, trying to predict the unpredictable, trying to figure out ways to keep ourselves and loved ones safe.

Soon after, we saw a summer filled with violence after the murder of George Floyd sparked civil unrest across the country. Up next, a highly controversial election that had us all on the edge.

As we all know, so much more has happened since. Currently, we find ourselves in the wake of another horrendous mass shooting in Uvalde, TX–and all the news that comes with it.

Simply said, the past two years have hardly been a time of ‘good news.’

The New York Times published a study last year that revealed U.S. media had the most negative coverage of Covid-19 compared to any other source, such as scientific journals or international publications.

The study found that this was true across all national networks, from MSNBC to Fox News.

For so long, everywhere we turn, there is something new to punch us in the stomach.

As a journalist, you get paid to readily receive and dissect those low blows.

While many in our country have been encouraged to limit their news intake for their mental health, those in our profession can’t afford that luxury.

So, in the midst of trying to make sense of the seemingly endless atrocities happening all over the world, how can we do better for our audiences? How do we give them the information they need without sending them into turmoil?

John Roberts, co-anchor of ‘America Reports’ on Fox News and a former senior national correspondent for CNN, believes that it comes down to providing more context.

“Myself and Sandra, and our team for America Reports, try to give people added value, context and perspective on whatever the big story is,” Roberts said. “So, it’s not just, ‘Oh, here’s the horrible news.’ It’s, ‘Here’s what the news is now. What does it mean to you? What can be done about it? How do we change things?’”

Roberts further believes that viewers broadening their media horizons, so to speak, can be another way to avoid being inundated by negativity.

“In this day and age when people have access to so many different streams of information, awareness is becoming more and more important…You need to be able to take a look at something whether it’s online or whether it’s a report from somewhere or wherever you get the information and compare that to other things that you have heard otherwise,” Roberts said. “It’s very easy for you to get drawn down a rabbit hole. So, the broader your platform of information is, the better able you are to have an understanding of where you sit in the universe and what’s really going on in that universe.”

But journalists don’t have to go down that rabbit hole either, according to Roberts.

“Just like anybody who deals with a lot of data, whether they be a stock trader, or whether they be the CFO of the company, they’re being inundated by figures every day,” Roberts said.

What he suggests is that we do our best at compartmentalizing our information, focusing on one subject at a time.

“If you’re trying to grasp everything all at once, you can feel overwhelmed, but if you put it in silos or buckets…it’s much easier to digest and focus on and much easier to compartmentalize,” Roberts said.

One of the authors in the Covid-19 media coverage study, Bruce Sacerdote of Dartmouth University, shared that the issue wasn’t with accuracy, the negative things being reported were true. The issue, he believed, was with what facts were being emphasized.

Perhaps, if we can keep ourselves from feeling overloaded by the news of the day, we won’t feel the need to over-emphasize. Maybe if we try to see the whole picture, good and bad, our audience can too.

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Trust and transparency in investigative reporting

“You have to show up”

BYLINE: Maureen Dunne

Hollywood paints investigative reporting as a conquest. A source has important information, and the reporter has to have it — no matter their methods.

Whether it be Woodward and Bernstein peeling back the layers of the Watergate scandal in “All the Presidents’ Men,” or Boston Globe reporters knocking on doors of disgraced priests in “Spotlight” — it would seem that all a reporter needs are a foot in the door and enough menthols to wait out a source’s reluctance.

But outside the dramatization of the Watergate scandal or Catholic Church sex abuse cover-up, investigative reporters must form a two-way relationship with their sources. Real people must share their trauma and struggles with investigative reporters to bring these stories to light.

Building trust is an essential — and time consuming — part of the investigative reporting process.

“Trust is built over time with a lot of talking and … a lot of listening,” Jodi S. Cohen, an investigative reporter with ProPublica, said. “This is not something where we talk to someone one day and the next day, we’re publishing their story.”

Cohen’s reporting has uncovered some of Illinois’ largest scandals — from school districts illegally constraining students with special needs to a faulty University of Illinois at Chicago study harming children.

Cohen’s recent investigative work, in tandem with the Chicago Tribune, uncovered the pervasiveness of local police issuing tickets to students for misbehaving at school. Police fined children across the state hundreds of dollars for vaping or fighting, financially burdening their families and causing them to miss more classes to appear in court — in blatant violation of Illinois law.

She earned her sources’ and their families’ trust for months during the COVID-19 pandemic. Letting them take the lead on their comfort level with in-person interaction, she relied on outdoor interviews and mask-wearing indoors to be there with them.

”I always think it’s best to be in person,” Cohen said. “To talk with someone face to face and be there. Half the success in journalism is being there. You have to show up.”

Cohen’s months-long trust-building process isn’t just beneficial to her storytelling — it improves public faith in the entire journalistic profession. A report from the Nieman Lab, a Harvard-affiliated organization dedicated to researching the future of journalism, indicated that transparency is key to establishing trust in the media.

That means transparency with not only the public, but sources themselves on what to expect during the reporting process.

“We’re very transparent with all of our sources, whether it’s families or school officials, explaining that we don’t do our stories quickly, we take a lot of time,” Cohen said. “So, there’s just no surprises at all when it comes to what we publish.”

At the core of her work is stories of families deeply impacted by scandals, and often in its wake, policy change.

“[In] investigative reporting, we work to expose wrongdoing and hold people accountable,” Cohen said. “You go into it never knowing what the reaction is going to be and not having any sort of expectation, because it’s completely out of your control.”

In the aftermath of her investigation exposing school fines, the Illinois State Superintendent of Education issued an internal memo condemning the practice. Additionally, the Illinois State Comptroller now prohibits the use of a state program in collecting debt from ticketed students.

And when her reporting creates waves — she’s a phone call away.

“When you get a call from families who are impacted, saying, ‘wow, I can’t believe we’re gonna get a change because of this,’ it’s a great feeling,” Cohen said.

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Staying optimistic with Jane Mayer

by Josephine Stratman

Jane Mayer has exposed a lot of darkness.

The New Yorker staff writer has published pieces revealing corruption in the Bush administration, the political influence of the Koch brothers and shady conversative organizations attempting to derail a Supreme Court nomination. Still, she stays optimistic.

“I may be naive, but I really do think that in a democracy, people actually have to have facts and they have to have information, otherwise they can’t make good decisions, and the government is us,” Mayer said. “…I do really believe in the basic idea that the press is essential in democracy.”

She said that while this doesn’t mean we live in a perfect world, journalism provides the “ingredients for reform” in the U.S.

“It’s not meant to try to make everybody depressed or cynical,” she said. “The hope of the muckrakers heart, I think, is that people will care, and they will fix what seems unfair or corrupt.”

Perhaps unexpectedly, Mayer got her start in journalism at small papers in Vermont. One of her first jobs in the field was as a hospital news reporter for the Rutland Herald in Rutland, Vermont, where she started every shift logging who was born and who died the night before.

She doesn’t see her work now as all that fundamentally different.

“People call me an investigative journalist, but truthfully I don’t actually really think it’s any different from just being any other kind of reporter,” she said.

The real difference, she said, is time to dig deeper.

Mayer said that despite the acclaim of being the Wall Street Journal’s first female White House correspondent, she didn’t like having to work “like a demographer with no ability to set what the news is.” Simply taking notes on the latest the president or press secretary said wasn’t fulfilling, because it wasn’t creative, she said.

She was able to break out of this cycle a bit by setting up a rotation system where she and other reporters would trade off in order to give room to pursue enterprise stories — something Mayer suggests for young reporters in jobs that demand near-constant filing.

Earlier in her career, Mayer was able to find more room to be creative by finding a less high-profile beat. When she first went to the Wall Street Journal, Mayer covered the television industry. Compared to the steel or auto industries, the paper didn’t have a high demand for television news.

“I could write stories that were really fun and interesting, because they just didn’t care that much about the beat,” Mayer said. “So, I would counsel people to, when everybody’s zigging, go and zag.”

The world young reporters are entering is vastly different from the one Mayer entered. The 24/7 news cycle, higher demands of reporters online and on social media and need to glean clicks and pageviews create a lot of pressure.

“Those pressures really are in direct competition with anything long form, anything thoughtful, anything that might be nuanced,” she said. “…It seems to me that the common denominator, the way that you can break through without debasing yourself is to do great reporting.”

That speed also comes at the risk of making mistakes — something no reporter is above. What’s most important, Mayer said, is fixing them.

“It’s not about us. It’s about getting the record right, and getting the facts to people, so we try to fix them,” she said. “I think that’s a real difference between the mainstream press and the more propaganda outfits.”

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Just and fair reporting requires empathy

By Grace Ulch

I’ve seen more people get into fights over easily googleable facts the last two years than I can ever remember. How could it be that people living in the same communities, running in the same circles can have such drastically different takes on something that is either in writing or on video?

Their go-to news source has a lot to do with it.

Opinion-driven news sources like Fox or MSNBC have taken the legitimacy out of the statement, “I saw it on the news.” So, how can we as reporters ensure facts are disseminated in an accurate, unbiased way? The way most readers want their news?

“A totally balanced and fair observer is actually a relatively recent development in American journalism,” said PBS NewsHour correspondent John Yang. “As recent as the 50s newspapers had a point of view. I mean, the Chicago Tribune for goodness’ sake, Colonel McCormick certainly expressed his views through the news columns of the Chicago Tribune.”

As a person, having values that determine how you see major events like abortion rights debates and the Black Lives Matter movement is inescapable. As a reporter, you are constantly making decisions about what aspects of those events you cover, what’s in your lead, who you will quote and what you choose to leave out.

“A totally neutral report on an event would be a transcript,” said Yang. “Edward R. Murrow said something, that that to some stories, there is no other side. I mean, what is the other side of say Black Lives Matter? What is the other side of violence by police against civilians, is inordinately against people of color?”

After a long career in print, Yang made the switch to broadcast which is where I have my sights set. But, throughout our conversation as we talked about the duty to be fair in the midst of divisive issues, my own sensitivity came to mind.

Overall, I’m a decently even keeled person, but I’m notorious for having heart strings that are easily tugged at.

Early this week, a security guard for WGN TV was shot and killed filling up her gas tank. Seeing her two daughters’ anguish after the loss of one of the biggest parts of them, my eyes welled up with tears at my desk.

I unexpectedly lost my dad on Jan. 1, 2022. It’s something that will be difficult to talk about for the rest of my life and I began to worry that if I am covering a story of someone who has to endure that kind of pain, I might start to crack.

Yang then told me the story of an anchor he worked with, Peter Jennings, at ABC who was notorious for getting emotional. During the broadcast coverage of the wreckage of 9/11, he wore his heart on his sleeve.

“You hear the emotion in his voice. And he says, I just hung up with my daughter. And he said, those of you out there if you’ve got kids, give them a call.”

People are at the heart of every news story, and to cover them accurately you have to work to understand them, whether you agree with them or not. A key to fair, just and respectful reporting is empathy.

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Partisan Divisions and a Lack of Media Trust: Covering Politics in an Era of Political Polarization

by Theodora Koulouvaris

March 8, 2022

Mark Murray has always been a “political junkie.” Murray grew up discussing politics at the dinner table and watching documentaries about the American presidency.

Now, Murray serves as NBC’s senior political editor. But Murray’s career in journalism began before then. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin and completing several internships, Murray started his first job at the National Journal with a desire to report on American politics.

By his third week on the job, one of the biggest political stories to rock the Clinton White House broke: the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal. This led to the impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton.

These weren’t the only national and political events to impact a young Mark Murray; so did the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the 2000 presidential election.

“It was just kind of jarring being a young journalist and seeing an impeachment and sex scandal, a contested election in the Bush vs. Gore 2000 presidential race, and then what ended up happening on 9/11,” Murray said. “And that was all in my early to mid 20s.”

Since then, journalism evolved. Murray described the industry as having slower news cycles and fewer news outlets in the 1990s, a time before the age of social media. Now, Murray said major news stories are reported just hours after they break, and the public has more options of where to get their news.

“Today, there are just so many more kinds of outlets that exist and more people getting their news from other ways than through the mainstream media or legacy [media],” Murray said.

Politics followed suit. According to a June 2014 study from the Pew Research Center, American politics have become more polarized since the 1990s as Democrats and Republicans are more divided ideologically than ever before with more Democrats having consistently liberal views and Republicans consistently conservative ones. At the time, 94% of Democrats were to the left of the median Republican while 92% of Republicans were to the right of the median Democrat.

“While Washington D.C. was polarized in the late 1990s, there was more collegiality among Democrats and Republicans, a lot more trust in news organizations, with almost everyone being consumers of legacy and mainstream media versus more partisan news outlets,” Murray said.

This more partisan and polarized public creates problems for journalists working to communicate accurate information to the public. In a Pew Research study from August 2021, 78% of Democrats and Democratic leaners claim they have “a lot” or “some” trust in the information that news organizations report. Only 35% of Republicans and those that identify as Republican leaners feel the same way, down from about 70% in 2016.

“Someone like me at NBC News starts off with only 60% of the American public, even considering our reporting and our news judgment,” Murray said. “We could end up reporting that the sky is blue, and 40% of the country ends up saying that ‘Well, you can’t end up trusting news organizations like mine.’”

In this era of political polarization, Murray explained that Americans are staying closer to their side of the political aisle with a willingness to discount information that doesn’t conform with their beliefs.

“So much about politics becomes tribalism, where you want your side to end up doing well or look good,” Murray said. “And when you end up having information to the contrary, people want to dismiss that right out of hand.”

This issue can emerge in the way some news outlets cover politics. During our conversation, I asked Murray about the tendency of networks like Fox News to take positions in their reporting that demonstrate a bias towards former President Donald Trump. Murray said that when there are events that paint Trump in a negative light, Fox tends to avoid covering it. As a result, their audience never hears that information.

“I do think that there is the idea that if there is particular news that makes your side look bad, that you don’t end up mentioning that and then you just end up talking to a bubbled audience, that really can’t be swayed by any kind of news events,” Murray said.

It might seem difficult for journalists to overcome these obstacles, but Murray said the mainstream media continues to play a key role in bringing the public news from both sides of the political spectrum talking to Democrats and Republicans.

“While that’s not often the most perfect way to arrive at the truth, the fact that we are having conversations and sourcing with just not one side or one political party, to me is incredibly important to be able to do,” Murray said.

Local Reporting is More Than a Stepping Stone

By Megan Avery

A meeting adjourns in Washington D.C. The representatives of this country pour into a sea of journalists. Cameras flash. Questions are hurtled through the air. The contents of the meeting will be on the air and web in minutes. This is the hustle of national reporting that Meha Ahmad left.

Ahmad worked as a D.C. correspondent for years. Now, she works as the executive producer for WEBZ’s Reset. Ahmad’s career move is different than most. Journalists usually start in smaller, local markets before advancing to bigger areas of the country.

“You can work for a national outlet and the story that you’re covering is Ukraine,” Ahmad says. “And that does not tell, you know, a Chicago resident who’s driving to pick up their kids why and how it impacts them.”

Local journalism has seen an uptick in importance in recent years. The digital sphere of the internet allows people who could never see local news to receive it for free. The Medill Local News Initiative wrote an article about the rise in local journalism in Chicago. Organizations like Block Club Chicago, WBEZ, and the Better Government Association are focusing more on the local aspects.

Without these organizations, stories like the misconduct of Park District employees might have gone unnoticed.

“And that’s the role that local media plays,” says Ahmad, “It is explaining to the news consumer and helping them understand where they fit in this big story.”

Chicago is a city full of news. Big stories emerge almost every day about corruption and changes. For the average citizen, it’s a lot to digest. The journalists of this city break down the news into pieces the audience can understand.

Chicago’s elected officials have eyes on them everywhere. Local reporting shines in smaller towns. Ahmad says, “It’s usually local politics that see the most corruption because that’s where a lot of times it kind of goes under the radar.” Smaller markets bank on the busy and understaffed news teams to leave that sleeping bear alone.

As journalists, our dedication is to seek and tell the truth. That responsibility skews when we also have to fit the news in the culture of a location. National news tends to focus on getting a story out first. There is a mad dash after every big event.

Local reporting doesn’t need to be the first. Many stories highlighted on Reset have already been reported on. Ahmad and her team are more concerned about why.

Ahmad stresses that both types—local and national—are critical. “I actually encourage everybody to do both, at some point.” The journalistic skills needed and experience for each category are different. Yet it is crucial that someone is covering the latest Presidential Address while someone else is covering a local town hall.

“But if you’re looking to help people make sense of their day to day lives in the place they live,” Ahmad says, “I feel like local news, you can’t do better than that.”

We’re all after the same goal, just in different places.

 

 

‘We are kind of irrelevant’: Sports journalism remains at crossroads in terms of real and reliable reporting

By: Lawrence Kreymer

There aren’t many people in the journalism world who have seen the field adapt and change over the course of the last three or four decades. Rick Telander is one of them.

Telander has been a sports journalist for nearly five decades, starting off at Sports Illustrated and then taking a job as the sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1995.

He has seen the evolution of journalism throughout those years — in particular, sports journalism.

The field is not nearly the same as it was when Telander started. For instance, access to athletes and coaches has diminished due to the growth of social media.

“Athletes more and more realize that they don’t want to deal with actual sports journalists, they don’t have to,” Telander said. “In fact, most of the sports beat writers that I know, they mostly follow the athletes’ Twitter feeds or their Instagram accounts. They actually wait for the athlete to make pronouncements.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has also had a major impact on sports journalists’ ability to do one-on-one interviews with athletes and coaches. Locker room access after a game — a staple in the field for years — has basically vanished in the past two years.

“In fact, I went to a Bears game last fall — I hadn’t been to one in a long time — and it was useless,” Telander said. “You sit in the pressbox, watch the game [on a] little monitor  with no sound that is over 100 yards away — it’s so far away. You don’t know what’s going on, and you [can’t] go into the locker room.”

The lack of in-person interaction with the teams beat writers are covering has lessened the importance of journalists attending and covering games, according to Telander.

“We are kind of irrelevant,” he said. “If our access means nothing, which it seems to mean very little, maybe we have better writing skills — I don’t know if those are appreciated — or maybe we have analysis, but that only goes so far, too,”

Sports journalism has been evolving for years with the growth of social media. It’s no longer that journalists have most of the control in spreading information out to the public about what happened in a game or meeting.

Teams have more power than ever to release the information they feel is the most pertinent to their audience — and that includes cutting off access to journalists when they deem their reporting too negative.

“It was two years ago, [former Chicago Sun-Times reporter] Madeline Kenny, the [Chicago] Sky boycotted her because they did not like what she wrote,” Telander said.

The increase of social media platforms has also allowed more people to get involved covering sports — but that has not necessarily resulted in more honest and truthful reporting.

The last few months have seen some egregious and false reporting circulate online, even with some of those stories coming out from established reporters in their respective sports.

“If you are first, even if it’s wrong, you will get the clicks — and you are awarded for that,” Telander said. “This is the era of disinformation. … So, if you don’t come first and you don’t say something shocking in some form, then you are going to wither and die, and that’s the thing we have not been able to control as far as fact and truth.”

Even if someone’s reporting ends up being false, the clicks and attention that story generates can greatly benefit a company. It’s very rare that a journalist ends up being held accountable due to their reporting, especially if they work for a bigger organization that might prioritize clicks over truthful stories.

“When I used to write for Sports Illustrated, you have the story in and it went through three layers of checking and the legal department,” Telander said. “When you got called by the fact checkers all the time, we don’t even have those anymore.”

Sports journalism is at a crossroads of figuring out what’s more important: doing real and reliable reporting that goes beyond the final box score or continuing to prioritize reporting on trades and acquisitions that may or may not end up being true.

Leaders of these organizations have the power to decide the future of the field. It would behoove these leaders to focus more on getting the reporting right over getting it first.

 

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Judy Woodruff: A Journalist Guided by Accuracy, Integrity, and Empathy

By Claire Malon

 During her tenure as managing editor and anchor for PBS NewsHour, Judy Woodruff has built a legacy for being one of the most trusted sources of news in the nation.

With this reputation, it may surprise some to discover that Woodruff doesn’t believe in the concept of objectivity that so many journalists live and breathe by.

“I don’t believe there’s any such thing as objectivity,” said Woodruff. “I’m not a machine, I’m not a computer, I’m a human being.”

From their time in j-school to their first reporting jobs and throughout the rest of their careers, journalists are taught to be unbiased, objective conduits of the news.

Yet journalists, like everyone else, are people with different identities, backgrounds and lived experiences — and these things impact who we are and how we report the news.

But to Woodruff, this isn’t something we should try to hide or be ashamed of, nor does it mean we can’t fulfill our journalistic obligation to the public.

“I think what I can do is try to be as fair as possible as I report the news [and] make sure that I’ve listened to all sides and given what I think is the appropriate weight to the arguments that people are making.”

Rather than being beholden to objectivity, Woodruff defines her career as one guided by accuracy, integrity, and empathy.

“I’ve always been about reporting only what you know, and only what you can confirm. That’s the kind of reporting I was taught,” said Woodruff. “Being fixated on the facts.”

Last year, Woodruff was awarded the first ever Peabody Award for Journalistic Integrity. As a reporter with over five decades of experience, Woodruff has always sought for her work to be integrous.

“I think it’s about honesty, it’s about being transparent in our work, it’s about putting the news and facts ahead of everything else.”

 But for Woodruff, who has been an outspoken advocate for women’s rights and people with disabilities, the best reporting requires empathy.

“I think there’s a way to reflect the facts, and to be true to your role as a journalist, but still to show some empathy for the people involved,” said Woodruff. “So that’s been my philosophy of reporting, is tell all sides of the story, but be humane about it and be human.”

Woodruff underlined the importance of this kind of journalism — one defined by accuracy, integrity, and empathy.

“To me, freedom of the press, the ability to report, the ability to report with accuracy and with integrity is foundational to our democracy. You can’t have a democracy without a free press.”\

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Judy Woodruff: A Journalist Guided by Accuracy, Integrity, and Empathy

By Claire Malon

 During her tenure as managing editor and anchor for PBS NewsHour, Judy Woodruff has built a legacy for being one of the most trusted sources of news in the nation.

With this reputation, it may surprise some to discover that Woodruff doesn’t believe in the concept of objectivity that so many journalists live and breathe by.

“I don’t believe there’s any such thing as objectivity,” said Woodruff. “I’m not a machine, I’m not a computer, I’m a human being.”

From their time in j-school to their first reporting jobs and throughout the rest of their careers, journalists are taught to be unbiased, objective conduits of the news.

Yet journalists, like everyone else, are people with different identities, backgrounds and lived experiences — and these things impact who we are and how we report the news.

But to Woodruff, this isn’t something we should try to hide or be ashamed of, nor does it mean we can’t fulfill our journalistic obligation to the public.

“I think what I can do is try to be as fair as possible as I report the news [and] make sure that I’ve listened to all sides and given what I think is the appropriate weight to the arguments that people are making.”

Rather than being beholden to objectivity, Woodruff defines her career as one guided by accuracy, integrity, and empathy.

“I’ve always been about reporting only what you know, and only what you can confirm. That’s the kind of reporting I was taught,” said Woodruff. “Being fixated on the facts.”

Last year, Woodruff was awarded the first ever Peabody Award for Journalistic Integrity. As a reporter with over five decades of experience, Woodruff has always sought for her work to be integrous.

“I think it’s about honesty, it’s about being transparent in our work, it’s about putting the news and facts ahead of everything else.”

 But for Woodruff, who has been an outspoken advocate for women’s rights and people with disabilities, the best reporting requires empathy.

“I think there’s a way to reflect the facts, and to be true to your role as a journalist, but still to show some empathy for the people involved,” said Woodruff. “So that’s been my philosophy of reporting, is tell all sides of the story, but be humane about it and be human.”

Woodruff underlined the importance of this kind of journalism — one defined by accuracy, integrity, and empathy.

“To me, freedom of the press, the ability to report, the ability to report with accuracy and with integrity is foundational to our democracy. You can’t have a democracy without a free press.”

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