The Missouri School of Journalism teaches its students to enter a situation with open eyes, ears and mind. We are taught that quality journalism results from reporters taking the time to speak to multiple stakeholders with multiple perspectives. We are taught to give voices to the voiceless, to arrive early, stay late and check our facts before publication to make sure we get the full story. If we miss anything, we correct it as quickly as possible. Accuracy and all-encompassing clarity are words we need ascribed to our work to remain credible and reliable.
Last Tuesday, I witnessed journalists practicing everything but the description above.
I was in Chicago on an alternative spring break trip, serving the Pilsen neighborhood on the Southwest Side. Many of the people I served were walking in a rally for comprehensive immigration reform, so I decided to bring my camera and check it out for myself. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights organized the 1,000-person march demanding comprehensive immigration reform. The majority of marchers were children who are U.S. citizens, whose parents are undocumented residents. The crowd walked from Millenium Park to Federal Plaza, where 10 children with undocumented parents spoke about their fears of family separation. They pleaded to Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk to create legislation that would protect parents of citizens from deportation and provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented residents.
The information I just provided you was available to anybody who got to the rally early and stayed to hear the 10 children speak. But most media outlets took video and interviews pre-rally, which is why they got their numbers wrong and didn’t include video of the actual rally when people spoke. It was disappointing watching TV reporters report live from where the rally WAS, instead of reporting on the ACTUAL rally, AS it was happening.
I understand that there is a time crunch, and deadlines to meet. But that’s no excuse to not do your job. In my opinion, giving an incorrect head count or choosing interviewees based on cuteness diminished the significance of the march. Why should the general public care about an issue that seems to impact a small proportion of the population? And if the general public doesn’t care, what would inspire politicians to create legislation?
The link I provided with more information on the march was written by Darryl Holliday for DNAinfo.com/Chicago, a neighborhood news website that provided the most accurate, comprehensive web story I could find. Holliday quoted multiple speakers and explained why these Mexican-American children were speaking. He also explained that 500,000 Latino children turn 18 each year, which makes up 10% of the electorate, and these kids will all vote for their parents. By giving a voice to the voiceless, providing context to the situation, and sticking around to gain all accurate, relevant information, Holliday told the entire story.
Brian Cassella of The Chicago Tribune also covered this story well. This print and digital news outlet used video to tell this story, filming every speaker and keeping himself out of it. By allowing people to speak for themselves, Cassella cuts off any chance for misinterpretation. You hear the message straight from the horse’s mouth, and you get a view of the march in its entirety.
Brian Cassella and Darryl Holliday entered this situation with open eyes, ears and minds. They took the time to get multiple perspectives from multiple stakeholders. They clearly checked their facts, as all their information was accurate, and they clearly got their early and stayed late to gain the information they provided. Telling the story of immigrant children and showing how many people care about this issue could get politicians’ attention, which could lead to legislation.
Quality journalism can initiate a conversation. Conversations can lead to actions. Actions can impact our world. Reporters everywhere, I urge you: DON’T GET LAZY. Do your job, and do it well. Then maybe, people will start trusting journalists again.