Getting the Whole Truth

3 Dec

As the fall semester is coming to an end at West Virginia University, in class we were asked to talk to a professional journalist on an ethical dilemma they have faced in their career. I got to learn a few things, personal and ethical, from someone very talented and passionate about their work.

Errin Whack

Errin Whack

Errin Whack, an award-winning journalist on race and politics, who was willing to do an over the phone interview with me Monday night, Nov. 30, made it clear that you are going to run into bumps in the road, like any other job.

One ethical dilemma Whack hasn’t had a difficult time with but knows some journalists struggle with is to remain true, unbiased and get the whole story.

Whack has a strong, deep interest in civil rights and was a reporter in Ferguson, MO after the death of Michael Brown.

To make sure Whack did the right thing while on the ground there for a few weeks she had very long days. During the daytime she was talking to the police and community about what was happening. At night she was roaming the streets and going to the coffee shops making connection with activists and residents.

At first, it was hard for her to find anyone to talk to her but as she kept appearing at the same locations and asking the same questions people started to feel more comfortable with her around. Whack thought that people might question, “should black journalist cover certain things like this without being biased?”

“I have been in Ferguson a few times in the past year and there was conversations on whether black journalists were biased in that situation,” said Whack. “But as a professional you just have to try to tell the whole story.”

It is always hard to get people to feel comfortable telling you their story and letting you into their personal lives. It is something that I have learned through my classes: when you are desperate for sources, going door-to-door or appearing more than once in a community makes you a step better of a journalist.

Something that stuck out to me when I spoke with Whack was that she mentioned that this is her job and it is an awareness of different diversities in this job that make different stories more appealing to others than some.

“It’s important about having diversity in journalism because you want people with different backgrounds and experiences” said Whack. “You never know in daily journalism what is going to happen in any given day.”

This is a job that you go into blindfolded everyday wondering what it will be like with no set agenda. I am excited to see what the future holds for future journalists and myself when going into the real world and finding stories that intrigue others and make them want to learn something new.

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