Monday, October 20, 2008

REPORTER BLOG: No Reacting, Just Reporting

Whitney Hare

During this crazy election period, it seems as though I've heard the words liberal media more than ever. It seems the media can never make anyone happy in the political world. The journalist is either too biased, or too mean, or doesn't ask the right questions. It seems near impossible to make everyone happy when covering anything political. So when I got the opportunity to cover something political I tired my hardest to keep my opinions to myself, and cover the event in a way, I hope, that makes everyone happy, or at least equally unhappy.

Last week, I had the chance to cover the Senator Joe Biden rally in Athens as an online journalist. Knowing this was probably the biggest name that would be coming to Athens this election season, I jumped at the chance to report on the event. I think some people don't realize how rare it is to have such an important person in Athens. While it is wonderful to get the experience we get in MidDay, it's a bit difficult to fully prepare us for the real world.

Once I was assigned to cover the Biden rally, I gathered my camera and my notebook and headed off to the fairgrounds. We met our first obstacle entering the event. We didn't have "media credentials." Explain as we might that we were a student run news CLASS, and didn't know who was covering events until the day of, we were allowed entrance with a sigh and advice to "try and make sure you have those next time." I just wanted to laugh at the mention of "next time." As important as the battle ground state of Ohio is, I'll be surprised if we have any more big names in Athens before election day.

Once we were all set up, it was not a challenge to see who the majority of attendees were supporting. With t-shirts, buttons, hats and signs, the Obama/Biden supporters weren't difficult to find. McCain/Palin supporters on the other had, were no where to be seen. Now, when I am expected to do a "fair and balanced" story, how am I to do this, without both sides in attendance? I realize I could go out and hunt them down, but I was covering the rally, and the people in attendance. So I decided to focus my story on the speech, not how I felt about the speech or what I thought about the speech. I realized I had to focus on the facts and figures of the speech.

Now I realize, as a reporter, I need to learn not to let my personal feelings interfere with the story I am covering. With events like political rallies, that could be extremely difficult. I used this rally as the perfect opportunity to not just work on reporting, but to hide my political beliefs as well. I made a conscious effort to not react whatsoever to the statements I heard. I kept my mouth shut, and my hands still. In a business that is so quickly labeled "liberal" or "biased" I want to do everything I can to fight that stereotype. I also had the chance to see professional journalists at work and took my cue from them. They did not react, they simply reported.

So, I am asking a favor of you, the reader. Please, read my story on the Biden rally. Tell me if I was as unbiased as I thought I was. Let me know if you can read between my lines and find my political beliefs. Or let me know if I did my job, and reported, rather than reacted.

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