On getting it right
Feb 18, 2020
This story was fun to work on because I got to talk to high schoolers that are very involved in activism and really interesting to talk to. It was also a challenge to report on the forum because I wrote about it and photographed it. A delicate balance of tasks. But it went well! And I am happy to have reported a piece by myself.
I just looked back at the article to link it in this post and noticed that it has 26 comments, which is nerve-wracking. Since gun violence prevention is such a contentious issue, it is not a surprise there are many vocal comments. One of the things that scares me most about text reporting is that there is so much room for error. I double and triple check everything that I include in my writing, but I am always still afraid that something may be wrong. A single word could change the meaning and make it inaccurate. While photos can be framed and presented in ways that are wrong or inaccurate, for the most part they are straightforward. What is in the photo is what happened, unless altered drastically—which we don't do in news. A photo is a photo and there is really no disputing what happened in that moment. It is there for all eyes to see. When reporting, though, the readers rely on your account and the accuracy of your writing and observations and quotes. There is nothing else for the reader to go off of if they weren't in the room, and they place trust in your account. I am afraid to get things wrong, to break that trust and report inaccurate news. There are many processes in place to catch errors, but I always have a little bit of worry.
Especially with this story, with high school students placed right in the light discussing an issue that is so political and holds a lot of emotional weight for many. I don't want them, who trusted me with their story and activism, to be hurt in the process. And it seems like they haven't, thankfully. There are comments, sure, but they aren't a result of any inaccuracies on my part.
Though I tried my hardest and got it right (I think), I worry a bit about the result of my reporting on Rachel and Anushka, the high schoolers that organized the event. I can assume that they are thankful for the coverage, but what do they think about the aftermath? About all of the comments? Will they give their story to journalists again? Or do they take it in stride as part of their activism?
Here is the link to the story (with many comments): https://www.columbiamissourian.com/news/k12_education/students-demanding-action-young-activists-draw-crowd-at-gun-violence/article_5517bc0e-5104-11ea-99f6-731bcb356bcb.html.