An individual's credibility as a journalist or even a publication's holistic reputation is imperative to keep intact when reporting. Teaching the importance of being accurate and informed is perhaps the best way to safeguard this ethos.
Closely related to objectivity in ethics, factual reporting and unbiased writing are essential to a successful print or online publication. Whether researching topical issues in the Omaha community or staying informed in order to pitch better articles, I believe news literacy strengthens any journalist's foundation.
For a scholastic publication, it's always important to be cognizant of issues affecting the community outside of a school or institution. For example, The Daily Northwestern is a news source for Northwestern University and Evanston. Similarly, The Hoofbeat serves Millard North's population along with the district of Millard and the city of Omaha as a whole. During brainstorming sessions, I am always looking at local publications such as The Omaha World Herald and The Lincoln Journal Star to get a sense of what topics are of interest.
This is how I came about the idea for story angles and ultimately an In Depth focusing on Millard's response to concerns regarding race. Starting in June 2020, Millard superintendent, Jim Sutfin released statements and a press conference identifying the district's need for more diversity. That summer he announced the institution of a district-wide diversity committee. It was because of my valuing of news literacy that I was able to accurately gather information and report on a story affecting people inside and outside of my school in a timely manner.
This is one of the graphics analyzing the required readings for Millard's English program.
Pitching Ideas for Keke
Transitioning to writing for a New York-based publication with a more progressive audience challenged me to adapt my process when pitching stories. In order to fulfill Keke Magazine's mission of "telling the stories of different women" and uncovering "a girl's contents-what she thinks, what she dreams, and what she feels" it's necessary to be informed in a range of topics. Politically, it's important to stay up to date on policy changes and reform with an emphasis on matters affecting young women. Pop culture is a big part of Keke; watching shows and listening to new music become important parts of the job description.
Being a writer for the magazine has allowed me to be more cognizant of news literacy outside of my Nebraskan bubble. I've implemented this broader perspective in Millard North's newsroom, encouraging writers to pursue topics on a larger scale, such as social media misinformation and its global consequences.
Click on images to view stories.
Local News Awareness
While during brainstorming sessions our staff focuses mainly on newsworthy events affecting the student body, I have instilled a broader sense of journalistic awareness in myself and my peers. Even simple going-on's in the community can spell significant impacts for our school and district. Following the killing of George Floyd in May 2020, Omaha inhabitants were forced to examine our own historical segregation. This discussion was prompted by lucrative, wealthy corporations inconspicuously buying blocks of property in the predominantly Black region of North Omaha. Having worked on the 2019 In Depth analyzing municipal racial inequity, I knew this was a perfect opportunity to add on to my previous reporting. I had the privilege of interviewing a prominent leader on North Omaha, Tanya Cooper.
To see full interview click here and scroll.
To view the 2019 In Depth, click here.
When writing my editorial addressing the arrest and trial of a former teacher for sexual assault allegations, intense fact-checking was required. Some administrators from school were involved in the legal proceedings and were barred from commenting, so it was imperative I found credible, outside sources to substantiate my story. Checking district regulations, keeping track of legal statements and press releases gave me a glimpse of what true investigative reporting entails.
Analyzing Conflicts of Interest
A school publication is perhaps more susceptible to conflicts of interest than a professional publication. A staff writer's first inclination is to interview their friends for a story, and it can be difficult to impress on new journalists the importance of disclosing potential conflicts of interest. This is something I take to heart. For example, going into an election year, I realized the newspaper would most certainly be covering local and national races. As a volunteer and organizing intern for a local congressional campaign, it was important to me to disclose my affiliation to my staff and adviser. Analyzing conflicts of interest is essential to maintaining a publication's credibility.