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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An Unignorable Problem

By Megan Avery

My therapist was surprised by my choice of profession.

I have lived with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, since childhood. Social situations can cause an undeniable state of dread. I avoid talking to strangers.

Journalism is bookended by those stressful social interactions. The meat of this job is personal connection.

I started this journey knowing my illness could be an issue. My therapist gave me contacts in the city. I prepared for the increased levels of anxiety that college would bring.

Then the first case of COVID-19 was discovered.

The country was in a state of high alarm. Journalists found themselves working from home. Many still braved the outside world in search of the truth. We worked to bring information to every fearful person in America. It took its toll.

The pandemic has caused higher levels of mental health disturbance in journalists. According to studies done by the International Center for Journalists, 82% of people surveyed reported negative emotional reactions caused by the pandemic.

The awareness surrounding mental health has increased in recent years. The intense workload contributes to higher stress levels. When left untreated, this stress can develop into anxiety and depression.

Multiple journalists have spoken out about how journalism affects mental health. A reporter at The Daily Beast, named Olivia Messer, ended up leaving her position due to extreme levels of stress. She said, “I have since interviewed a dozen local and national journalists. Many of them told me they do not feel… that they have the tools they need to handle the trauma they are absorbing.”

Julie K. Brown, a journalist who wrote about Jeffery Epstein’s crimes, met with her therapist many times during her investigations. The stories she heard were devastating. They lingered after the story’s publication. She found herself unable to sleep at night. Instead, she would review her research into the early hours of the morning.

While we are journalists, we are also humans. The emotions we report about don’t dissipate once the story is over. The industry is acknowledging the mental health issue. The next step is fixing it.

Dr. Glenda Gordon, a chief medical officer, wrote an article about mental health within the journalism field. She says, “only a few formal resources exist for aspiring journalists to learn about how to handle trauma and mental health issues.” Gordon continues by asking where mental health lands in the college curriculum.

DePaul does not have dedicated classes for navigating mental health in the field. Some professors touch on this concept. During my own college years, the topic has only been mentioned a handful of times.

The International Center for Journalist’s pandemic impact study collected positive experiences as well. They reported that 61% of journalists surveyed gained a better commitment to journalism during the pandemic. Another 43% of participants said that audience trust levels increased.

Take a deep breath. See where tension rests in the body. Check in with yourself. Mental health is important to all, not just those with diagnosed illnesses. As journalists, we can only keep going if we take care of ourselves.

Report despite fear

By Grace Ulch

I am a coward.

When people were hopping fences, I was taking the long way around. As kids zipped down the mini fire pole at playgrounds my second foot was cemented to the jungle gym. Friends would shout from their bike ahead, “look, no hands!” I would shudder at the thought of legs and arms covered in scrapes from lost balance.

I wish I could say this got better with age but my fear of getting myself into trouble just changed forms. Instead of cuts and bruises I now fear irritated neighbors or miffed bosses at countless customer service jobs (even if they irked me first).

As I spend more time reporting it dawns on me how ironic it is that a self-proclaimed coward chose a profession that above all else, other than accuracy, requires bravery.

When insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol, Sarah Wire of the L.A. Times never let her notebook leave her hand.

She took many risks that day. Despite having an 18-month-old in the middle of a pandemic she “leaped” at the chance to cover the counting of electoral college votes for the 2020 Presidential Election. Before anyone could comprehend the magnitude of the riots, there were rumblings of a protest. Wire’s husband feared it could turn dangerous.

Through the distribution of escape hoods and cracks that sounded like gunshots splitting through the air Wire turned to Rep. Norma Torres (D-Pomona) and asked, “Can I do the hardest part of my job and ask you what you are thinking right now?”

Editor at Nieman Storyboard, Jacqui Banaszynski says journalists become immune to the heightened emotions because this job requires a person who will race to be the first on the front lines rather than sit back.

“The job demands that you quit stewing and go in search of answers. Anxiety funnels to a point of clear action,” wrote Banaszynski.

Many didn’t expect the lootings and riots on Chicago’s own streets in the summer of 2020. Again, dangerous for many reasons. People knew exponentially less about Covid, and a vaccine had yet to be approved for administration. So, anyone present; young, old, activist, police officer, reporter was putting themselves in harms way.

This was combined with what would result from the anguish felt by Black and Brown people as they continue to battle against racial tension across the nation brought to a crescendo when a Black man named George Floyd was killed by a police officer.

In the thick of an emotional movement journalists needed to be the ones running towards the proverbial burning building, standing side by side with the movement’s most influential players and asking them their why.

The job is to tell the public what is regardless of the what ifs.

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Ethics still matter in sports journalism. So why has it been forgotten by many recently?

By: Lawrence Kreymer

There seems to be a growing problem in sports journalism, namely reporting something first rather than getting it 100 percent right. It’s a trend that has seemingly been growing in the past couple of months.

A few weeks ago, for example, Adam Schefter – ESPN’s lead NFL reporter – wrote on Twitter and in an article that quarterback Tom Brady was going to retire. As more information started to trickle in, Schefter’s reporting on that day proved to be inaccurate.

Brady did announce his retirement a couple of days later, but multiple people in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ organization and Brady’s agent disputed Schefter’s original reporting.

This has also been an issue locally in the past several months. A report surfaced from Patch.com in November that Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy would be getting fired after Thanksgiving.

Several days later, however, that reporting was also proven to be false. There have been other instances both in Chicago and around the country where sports journalists rush to report a story without confirming that the information is accurate.

Ethics have to matter in sports journalism. It shouldn’t be about who gets the scoop first or who can send out a tweet before someone else. It should be about verifying the information and making it sure it’s 100 percent accurate before publishing that story.

Plain and simple.

There seems to be some sort of competition between reporters who cover the same sport about beating your competition to the scoop. That is wrong. Journalism is not about one individual reporter, it’s about informing the public.

As someone who has always been interested in becoming a sports journalist, it is concerning that the field has become more about clicks and retweets over accurate and fair reporting.

That’s not to say that every sports journalist or outlet is engaging in this type of journalism. The Washington Post has done extensive reporting on the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and on some of its coaches.

The Athletic helped uncover a major investigation into the Chicago Blackhawks where a former player alleged that a coach sexually abused him in 2010.

This type of reporting matters. It makes a difference and shines a light on the issues facing different sports leagues and organizations.

But the sad reality is that more retweets and likes are generated from a tweet about Brady retiring or the Bears possibly firing Nagy than an investigation into the NWSL or the Blackhawks. That’s part of the business, with more people gravitating towards flashier headlines than to more serious articles.

That, however, doesn’t mean reporters should neglect the Code of Ethics to get a story out first. We have an obligation to give our readers the truth and a story that will inform them about a particular subject. If we do make a mistake, it’s also our obligation to make sure to correct that error and explain it to our readers.

ESPN never published an article explaining Schefter’s reporting, leaving a cloud of uncertainty hanging in the air for a couple of days until Brady made his own announcement.

Readers deserve to know the truth. It doesn’t matter if someone is doing political reporting or sports reporting, we all follow the same rules. Let’s be better and more careful when a breaking news story happens to not rush to print right away.

This is a field that I want to enter out of college and be successful at for a long time. It does worry me, however, that there is this unrelenting pressure – especially by larger sports outlets – to always be first rather than being right.

If there’s anything I have learned in my journalism classes at DePaul, it’s that being right is more important than being first. We lose our credibility if we report something false, and when you start to lose your credibility, the public doesn’t trust you nearly as much.

I’m thankful that DePaul has taught me that and stressed the importance of being right in my reporting. I just wish that more professional journalists recognized that and stopped rushing to Twitter to beat out another reporter.

 

This Headline Is Important

By Claire Malon

 No, I didn’t forget to write a headline. No, that’s not a placeholder title. This headline — like all others — is important. Headlines are important.

A headline can make or break even the best story, impacting the amount of engagement, the number of reads and how a story is received. For this reason, writing headlines can be difficult and daunting.

But then again, it should be. Headlines carry a lot of weight. Not only are they the first thing a person reads, more often than not, they’re the only thing a person will read.

A study from the American Press Institute found that six in 10 Americans don’t read past the headline. That means for roughly 60% of our readers, those big, bolded words at the top of the article are all that really matters.

So then shouldn’t we be cautious about what information we include in our headlines? I would argue so.

Acknowledging that a majority of readers won’t read any further, journalists have to ensure that our headlines are clear, accurate and not at all misleading or misrepresentative. That’s our journalistic responsibility.

The Society of Professional Journalists says as much. The SPJ Code of Ethics states that ethical journalism should “provide context” and “take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.” And after all, what is a headline if not a summary of the story that follows?

Failing to provide context or oversimplifying a story in a headline can have dangerous and far-reaching consequences, even leading to the rapid spread of misinformation.

Take, for example, this headline from CNBC.  On July 30, the outlet published a story on breakthrough COVID-19 cases. The headline read, “Breakthrough Covid cases: At least 125,000 fully vaccinated Americans have tested positive.”

At face value, the statistic seems staggering. Though technically accurate, without context the headline dangerously distorted the reality of breakthrough cases at the time.

Further in the article, the necessary context is provided: “The 125,682 ‘breakthrough’ cases…represent less than .08 percent of the 164.2 million-plus people who have been fully vaccinated since January.” The article’s headline, however, noticeably failed to provide this essential context.

Conversely, in a story published on the same day as CNBC’s, NBC5 Chicago headlined their article on the topic, “Data Shows Less Than 1 Percent of Vaccinated Test Positive for COVID.”

Using the same underlying data, the two articles manage to convey strikingly different pictures of the state of breakthrough infections. Thus, from these cases we can see how the same story can be characterized in vastly different ways depending on their chosen headline.

Intentionally or unintentionally, as journalists we must not amplify the spread of misinformation. So, whoever in your newsroom is responsible for crafting the headlines — whether it’s the reporter, editor, or copywriter — must take great care to write something that is fully reflective of the story, factually accurate and provides all context necessary for comprehension.

These things are of supreme importance and should always be prioritized over a headline that is eye-catchy, SEO-friendly, sensationalist or clever.

In all fairness, it is hard to summarize thousand-word stories in just a few words. But, knowing how few people will read any further, it’s our job to make those words count.

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An Erosion of Media Trust: How Partisanship Impacts Americans’ Views of the Press and their News Consumption

By Theodora Koulouvaris

February 10, 2022

In 2018, he called the news media the “true Enemy of the People.”

“There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news,” wrote then President Donald Trump on Twitter. “The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly.”

These comments came after a gunman killed 11 people at the Tree of Life Congregation, a Pittsburg synagogue, in October of 2018 and a man mailed pipe bombs to prominent Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

It’s no secret that Trump detested the media, particularly the “mainstream media” and its criticism of him, throughout his presidency, frequently labeling news organizations he didn’t agree with as “fake news.”

But those words have real world consequences.

According to a Gallup poll from October of last year, just 36% of Americans said they had a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in the press. When it comes to individual partisanship, only 11% of Republicans said they strongly trusted the media compared to 68% of Democrats and 31% of Independents.

And while Republicans generally have a negative view of the press and its impact on society, Trump supporters tend to have an even harsher perception of the media.

In an August 2020 study from the Pew Research Center, 39% of Republicans who strongly approved of the job Trump was doing as president were less likely to expect accurate information from news outlets.

The role of the press is to provide viewers, readers, and listeners with accurate, objective information on a multitude of events, including political ones. But the erosion of media trust spells disaster for democracy. People give legitimacy toinstitutions in the U.S., including the media. Our democracy cannot survive if Americans don’t believe news outlets provide them with reliable information.

But what news sources do Americans trust in the first place?

According to a Pew Research Center survey from October 2019, 16% of Americans said Fox News served as their main source of political and election related news while 12% viewed CNN as the source of that same information.

Partisanship, however, plays a key role in determining whether viewers are tuning in to watch Tucker Carlson on Fox or CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

In that same study, 93% of those surveyed who claimed Fox News was their main source of information identified as Republican or Republican leaners while 79% of respondents who received their news from CNN identified as Democrats or leaning Democrats.

Both networks differ in their coverage of national issues. For example, Fox News and CNN reported on the Jan. 6 insurrection, when a mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol to prevent the certification of the 2020 presidential election.

In the hours after the attack, Fox News personality Laura Ingraham claimed that the individuals who stormed the Capitol were not all Trump supporters, and some may have been members of the left-wing, anti-fascist group Antifa.

“Earlier today, the Capitol was under siege by people who can only be described as antithetical to the MAGA movement,” Ingraham said. “Now, they were likely not all Trump supporters, and there are some reports that Antifa sympathizers may have been sprinkled throughout the crowd. We will have more on that later.”

There is no evidence to suggest that members of Antifa were involved in the Capitol attack, and many of the rioters present that day waved Trump flags and dressed in MAGA wear.

If you watched CNN on Jan. 6, you would’ve heard a different story.

As the rioters entered Sanctuary Hall inside the Capitol complex, CNN anchor and chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper called the situation “stunning” and “dangerous.”

“President Trump could stop this with one tweet, but instead, he’s on Twitter attacking Vice President Pence for refusing to go along with his attempt at a coup, a bloodless coup,” Tapper said.

Democrats and Republicans are living in two separate realities: Democrats with the perception that Trump instigated the attack on the Capitol to overturn a free and fair election, and Republicans with the false belief that a far-left group played a role in that day’s events.

When Americans only receive their news from a source that continuously delivers false information to their audience, they’re informing their worldview on a lie.

And when we can’t agree on basic facts and truth, not only does it pose a challenge for other news outlets reporting accurate information to maintain the public’s trust, but it leads to the eventual breakdown of democracy as we know it.

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From a small mill town to the big city – the power of curiosity and determination

By Sadie Fisher

I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, packed with paper mills and power plants. I lived alongside working-class adults and quickly learned the power of a good work ethic, determination, and tenacity.

Producer Mary Murphy also grew up in a small town. Just thirty minutes outside of Providence, Rhode Island, her hometown was full of blue-collar folks working in mills. “I think it was really good to have spent the first 14 years of life in a small working-class town,” Murphy said. “It was just really good training for life.”

Her father became more and more successful with his career and because of how small Rhode Island is — Murphy became accustomed to brushing shoulders with powerful people.

“I think that that really helped me as a reporter,” Murphy said.  “I didn’t shirk from talking to people and I wasn’t afraid of power or timid in the face of power.”

She is now an Emmy award-winning writer, producer, and director. She started as a columnist at the New York Post and had a few more reporting jobs before transitioning to CBS News as a producer.

Now — she has her own production company where she’s created projects, films, and documentaries, including her work for PBS on author Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and the life of Helen Keller — but that wasn’t always her dream.

“I loved books,” she said. “I thought, you know, being an editor or working for an editor or some way, being around books would be really great.” Murphy graduated with an English degree and went to publishing school — but her curiosity and determination to get a job landed her first reporting gig.  She heard a columnist speak at a college lecture and decided to send her resume to him.

The reason she got an interview and the job? “My dad was an accountant, and he was outfitting his entire office with computers which was like a big deal and nobody else had done that.” She went with his employees to an institute to learn word processing – using a groundbreaking piece of technology at the time. And because of this curiosity to learn, she became a columnist at the New York Post.

Her career in hard news ended when she left CBS in 2005 — and that’s when she let her passions take over.  “I was out on the street trying to figure out what to do next and I did a variety of things,” she said. “And then what I did was my To Kill a Mockingbird movie, which I kept calling my love project.”

That love for what you do is what Murphy said journalists need to have. “If you really want to do something just keep doing it.” It may be hard, she said, but if you love it, it will be worthwhile. And although she said news cycles have changed and the way people ingest their news have shifted, the role of journalists will always stay the same.

“I think everybody needs journalists. I think it’s in the public interest.” Murphy firmly believes, “It’s always going to be important and valuable.” New journalists, she noted,  must be diligent with what they see online and that “you should never take what anyone says at face value.”

She understands that it’s easy to fall down the trap of trying to be right or proving a point — but that journalists need to remember that it’s important to stay out of that mindset.  “It’s not our jobs as journalists to win an argument or to even engage in an argument,” Murphy said. “It’s our job to report it down the middle and that isn’t always popular right now, but it’s very necessary.”

Murphy didn’t let curiosity kill the cat — in fact — it’s the thing that has kept her career going. “I think you have to stay curious. I learned to be resourceful and to have the conviction of knowing I had a good idea.”

As my college career ends and my journalism career begins, I’m going to keep my curiosity alive and focus on the truth. And I’m well on my way to joining Mary Murphy as a journalist from a small mill town.