After spending a week at a lovely journalism summer camp, I can surely say that hardcore journalism is no easy task. In fact, it’s monumental. Writing a real news story requires more work than I’ve ever put into writing a story for my school paper, and the interviewees ranged from homeless persons to county supervisors that didn’t have much time to spend on a student reporter. Like me. But what really opened my eyes was the fact that news is such an integral part of how we essentially shape society.
Earlier this summer I had worked on a story about homelessness in the city where I was attending camp, and the risks that accompanied writing the story were very real. Anything could have happened if I walked into the wrong part of town, and I could have easily been hurt if not shaken up and deterred from approaching the story. Based on what I was told by the lovely people I managed to interview, it seemed that homelessness was a severe and growing problem in the area, and the statistics stating otherwise only encompassed a portion of the problem.
I talked to a homeless veteran with PTSD and an amalgam of other health problems feeling neglected by the system, as obtaining affordable housing remained a huge issue for him and other veterans alike. At the same time, the lack of mental health services for his PTSD only made things worse, and the constant criminalization of homeless people resulted in several arrests throughout his life as person living on the streets. There was others as well, and it seemed like the problem revolving around affordable housing simply loomed.
I was told that the number of homeless people decreased from the years previous, and that progress was being made, but what about all those people who continued to end up on the streets–chronically homeless? Where did they come in? Not too long after I wrote the story and it was published, I heard that an empty building and the surrounding lot was either going to be turned into affordable housing or sold to a corporation for big profits. Of course I had hoped it would be the housing, but the city was leaning heavily towards just selling it.
This seems to be off track, but I promise I’m getting to the point…
So with the article published, I convinced my parents and my editors of how big of an issue it was but what about the rest of the city? Other news outlets were talking about the stats that highlighted the good, which is great, but I don’t recall seeing anyone verify the claims. How many of them actually talked to the homeless people going through the system? How many of the citizens will take a look around them to see that the strides won’t make a difference if the efforts continue to be temporary bandages.
Essentially, the media is a powerful tool, and it seems that the bigger the source, the more likely someone is to believe what they’re hearing. It’s because of this that I’ve gained such a respect for journalism, how powerful it can be in both masking and uncovering the truth when it comes to each and every issue we come across.
When I came back to school for my final year here, I walked into journalism and I was automatically disappointed. Journalism will and always has been a way of telling others what is necessary to make sure the public stays informed on the issues surrounding their everyday lives.
The group I saw coming in seemed to have a different idea in mind, a romanticized version of what news really is. News isn’t a blog, where one can spew out their opinions much like I am spewing out mine here. It’s not a place where one should be focusing only on the latest fashion spotlight or even the latest gossip or hearsay that has penetrated the deepest corners of the newsroom. It’s where we run after and give priority to our biggest issues. What needs to be changed? What happened and why aren’t we being told the details of the event that may or may not be an integral part of our school lives?
Journalism is a powerful tool and I hope these newcomers realize that fairly quickly. It dictates nearly every waking moment of their lives in some way or another, and I do hope that I can take them under my wing much like those before me did.
But at the same time I’m a little scared. What if I’m not the right leader? What if I can’t run a newspaper like I hoped I would?
Despite my doubts I am still hopeful, and I do wish for the best this year, a year filled with its own joys and its own struggles that we overcome as a team. I hope for the bonding that the previous years (far smaller and much more intimate group) got to experience with every late day and copy-editing session. I hope that perhaps I light the fires in the sparks that some of these bright young minds have as I did when I first joined.
And I hope that maybe this newsroom continues to be the safe haven I enveloped myself in when I felt I had no voice elsewhere, because I’ve found so much to love in this place of written truths and outspoken intellectuals.
Stay classy my friends, we have a long year ahead.