Thursday, November 17, 2005

Reaction to visitors to "Issues in Journalism" -- Sarah Smith


I have had a variety of reactions to the barrage of visitors to our Issues in Journalism class. Eesha Williams spoke to us about his experiences as a reporter and what it was like for him working at small, local newspapers. He emphasized how one must climb the ladder of journalism -- start out at a small publication and work your way up, paying your dues as you go.

Williams's interests lie in getting readers motivated about particular issues and the example he gave of the open space in Vermont was extraordinary. Through an investigative piece he wrote for his school newspaper he was able to unite the community and rise above even the local newspapers and draw attention to an impending injustice and actually prevent it. I was impressed and amazed at his initiative and devotion to his field.

If I was hiring reporters, I would want Eesha on my staff. He spoke of a clean, honest, active type of journalism that I fear is missing dfrom many of the reporters I have come into contact with. He spoke clearly and honestly about the issues today's journalists face. It was a rewarding and engaging conversation.

Fred Daley, the editor of The Hill Country Observer visited next. He focused his "presentation" more on the details of editing and how a story progresses along the copy desk. While he was talking, I was looking at his publication and found the stories to be interesting and timely for a monthly publication. Daley said that he "got out" of daily journalism because he believes most dailies put too much emphasis on trying to fill space and running any old press releases just to get something in the paper.

He said he didn't believe that daily newspapers get to the public genuinely and that in his monthly he is more able to be genuine and print articles and news releases that hold some water. I found this to be an interesting way of looking at the issue -- one that I have not considered.

Daly said something that concerned me. It seemed like he was implying that reporters are a lost art and there was not much of a future in journalism for reporters as we see them now. I think Bill even said that reporting is usually the starting point for most careers in journalism and the ultimate goal should be to move up to an editing position.

I disagree; I think we need good, lifelong reporters who craft and hone their skills over time. There is nothing wrong with a lifelong career as a reporter -- for some people, that would be good enough.

I could see how some of my classmates who are paying good money and putting a lot of time and energy into their college careers so that they may become reporters would feel discouraged by the current state of journalism. We need to inspire these ambitious would-be reporters with ways in which they can succeed in the field. Problem is, I'm not sure how to do that....

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