Carrying the Flame

I’ve told myself every weekend this summer that I was going to update my blog, and every weekend I didn’t do it. Now classes start in two weeks, and I have one more week of my internship at the Columbia Daily Tribune, which has been a lot of work and a lot of fun. I’ve written stories about a wide range of topics, from agriculture to shady businesspeople to Columbia Public Schools to the Diocese of Jefferson City (some clips are in the photo above). I’ve also taken some photos and shot some video, and I’ve been lucky enough to have some really nice colleagues.

The Trib has faced some obstacles this summer thanks to layoffs and other cuts. The news department is short-staffed, with only three reporters (not counting myself and the other intern) and two photographers. But our editors are fairly optimistic, we’re still getting the paper printed every day, and we still believe in local print journalism. We’re going to do whatever we can to stay afloat.

There’s kind of a general consensus that newspapers are dying. I’ve had people in my hometown tell me I shouldn’t be studying journalism for that reason (as if I would listen), and I know I’m a little naive for wanting to be a newspaper reporter anyway. I chose the convergence sequence so I could have other skills to fall back on in case print dies out, so I’m not worried about my future in this field. But I do believe newspapers are vital to the journalism industry. It’s sad to see the paper I write for struggle, although I’m grateful for this strong dose of reality I probably wouldn’t have gotten this summer at a larger metro outlet.

Speaking of large metro outlets, The New York Times and The Washington Post have displayed their value this summer. They’ve both broken story after story about the questionable dealings of the president, his family and his administration. Maybe I’m just being dramatic (which is likely), but I think these outlets are proving the worth of newspapers.

In July, the NYT forced Donald Trump, Jr. to release a revealing email conversation he had in 2016 with a lawyer who had ties to the Russian government. He only published the emails so the paper wouldn’t do it first. That’s pretty fierce of the NYT. I would love to do the kind of investigative work they’ve been doing about the rollercoaster that is American politics.

The NYT isn’t perfect, though. A couple days before the Trump Jr. email revelation, the paper published a story about Mizzou’s low enrollment that lacked a ton of necessary context. “Parachute journalism” like that is something Mizzou j-students learn not to do in their first couple semesters. Journalists need to be especially careful that we produce high-quality work at a time when, in addition to newspapers struggling, a lot of people don’t trust the media as a whole, and the president verbally attacks journalists regularly. A month ago, he tweeted a GIF that seemed to encourage violence against journalists. People close to him tried to pass it off as a joke, but it’s not even remotely funny.

On the first day of my first journalism class almost two years ago, the professor told us to write down and remember this quote from Columbia University journalism professor James Carey: “Journalism and democracy are names for the same thing.”

Holding government accountable is more important now than ever. In light of all the wild national news that’s been happening for the past couple years, it’s easy to forget how important it is to delivering reliable local coverage as well. NYT and WaPo are carrying the torch for newspapers, but I believe the Columbia Tribune is doing the same.

You didn’t think I had stopped blogging about music, did you? The first time I heard this song in June, I immediately thought about journalism, and I didn’t even make the connection to WaPo’s slogan until after several listens.

“Democracy Dies in Darkness.” Luckily, it’s not dark yet in this industry. Not even in newspapers.

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