Part of journalism is putting yourself in the shoes of the person you are writing about. Yet, you have to remain objective. Hence, the struggle of my most recent story, “Student seeks to create Safe Space.”
This story was complex, starting with a Journalism lunch last Tuesday. As we were sitting at lunch I saw a flyer on the table with the Safe Space logo on it and knew that it was a potential story. As I was saying it would be great news, we noticed an RD pulling all of them off the tables and pitching them. Dr. Dixon’s journalistic instincts had him snag one before it could be pulled, for our records and a future story in itself.
Some questions arose: Why were they pulled? What exactly was this group “Safe Space”?
I had my news story, that was for sure.
That night at the meeting I found out that Sam Taylor was heading up the group and after looking at the group’s Facebook page I found out they were meeting later that week.
I contacted Sam, asked him for an interview, and asked if I could come to the meeting. From my basic understanding of the group at that time I knew all of these things were a risk to ask. Since it was an anti-bully group that emphasized confidentiality, trust and safety, it would be a risk for them to let me come to a meeting and write a story about it.
With issues of sexual orientation it can also be difficult because people may not want their name to come out. Knowing this I also knew that for me to really know what I was writing about I had to go to the group meeting.
In a situation like this, I knew I could not mention names or conversation in the group unless I asked specific permission. This is huge in journalism. I did not want to publish what some may not want people to know about themselves. It would not only potentially hurt the person, but also tarnish my integrity as a journalist.
I was expecting people to be closed off and not want me to be there. However, they were extremely welcoming. The president and vice president of the group were extremely happy I was writing the story. Grateful even.
This was a welcomed surprise for me. Sam was extremely open, an interviewer’s dream. He wanted the story to be told.
I interviewed Vice President for Student Development Chris Abrams and Student Body President Bob Book as well, obvious positions of importance in this story. The only thing I wish I would have had more time for was to gather stories of students on campus. I know there are several students who feel hurt by anti-gay actions.
However, Jesse came to me and asked if we could run the story a week sooner than planned. What I had was sufficient enough. I actually found once I sat down to write that I had so much information, it was overwhelming. I wish I could put Sam’s entire interview into the story.
Not to mention the photo for the story came right to my door, literally. As I was walking into my dorm Thurday afternoon I saw a chalk memorial to the teen who committed suicide last week. I grabbed my camera and snapped a picture on the way to class. It fit right in.
In writing this I wanted to be sure I maintained my objective journalistic perspective. I have an opinion about this story, but I wanted to present the reader with all the information I could gather, that they might make their own educated decision about it just as I was able to.
Because of stories like this I love being a journalist. I love giving people that opportunity. The chance to see all the information and make an educated, discerning decision. This story is extremely relevant to what is happening today in a shift of our country.
Understanding the multifaceted parts of this discussion will help us to be better Christians.