Human First, Journalist Second Examining my purpose as a student journalist

By Shuvi Jha

As a student journalist, my job is simple — to seek out and report the truth, no matter how obscure, depressing or shocking. I’ve been in El Estoque for two years now, and over the course of time, I believe I’ve become quite adept at my job. I’ve written stories on many subjects, from the oppression faced by intersex people to the importance of attendance in sports.

From each story, I’ve learned something new, something novel that I couldn’t have possibly known, had it not been for a particularly enlightening interview. I’ve learned that everyone around me has a story to tell, whether it’s significant or otherwise. I’ve learned that people can be incredibly strong, that no one truly knows the extent of their strength until they’ve faced their darkest moments. I’ve learned that people have hopes, worries, aspirations and dreams, and that at the end of the day, we are not so different from each other.

In many ways, journalism has humanized those around me. My recent story on suicide is exemplary of this fact. Among the number of sources I interviewed for that story, two of them were my close friends and one of them was a friend from elementary school. I’ve never cried in an interview before — never — but those interviews broke me.

The first interview went a little like this — I started off strong, asking the 5Ws and H I’ve been trained to ask since my days as a Writing for Publication student. Then, as I sat there straight as as rod in a plastic chair hearing my source talk about the darkest moments of her life, the emotional boundaries began blurring. My eyes started getting a little watery, and in the last two minutes of the interview, the tears began pouring. Thankfully, I had already concluded interview at that moment; nevertheless, I walked out of the room embarrassed.

I had broken the number one rule in all of journalism — to remain impartial, getting involved only so far as the story demands and then leaving, untouched. To shed tears during an interview and visibly display my emotions was a travesty, a grave mistake.

Burdened by this belief, for the first time ever, I thought about my sources’ story and my role in reporting that story. As I lay in my bed with Mr. Puppy, my stuffed animal toy, I truly and seriously deliberated my purpose as a journalist. A series of questions and statements and thoughts bounced around in my head: Am I being unbiased? Was my crying inappropriate? Did it compromise the authenticity of the interview?

As I mulled these questions over, I slowly came to forgive myself. I realized that yes, while my job is to objectively report people’s stories, I too am a human being. I too am capable of feeling and expressing my emotions. In fact, I am entitled to do those things. Yes, a display of emotion was perhaps a little unprofessional, but it wasn’t the end of the world. It just meant that I am a sensitive, emotional person able to empathize for others.

Once I realized this and truly believed it in my heart, I also came upon a newer, more updated version of what it meant to be a journalist. My job is to report the truth — no matter how depressing, obscure or shocking. But my job is also to be a human — to bond with my sources’ over their stories so I may better represent them.

I know now that being a journalist means being a human.

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