By Pauly Denetclaw:
I’m wearing two hats and sometimes I forget which one I’m wearing. I am a community journalist who writes from a social justice frame and at the same time I have to be an AP journalist who cares about correct AP style and values. It’s hard to notice which one I’m wearing until someone tells me. It’s a difficult situation to manage and one of our national trainers, Jeff Cohen the co-founder of FAIR, agreed.
When Generation Justice talked with Jeff via Skype he spoke with encouragement about the realities of pursuing a journalism career. He mentioned how mainstream news outlets like TIME magazine, the New York Times and the Washington Post aren’t hiring. However he spoke about the benefits of being a journalist at alternative, progressive media outlets.
Jeff talked about the amazing opportunities at media outlets like Mother Jones and Colorlines. He even encouraged us to apply for grant money to get our own projects funded. When Jeff worked at corporate media outlets — like CNN, MSNBC and Fox News — he was unhappy and he didn’t want us to be in the same situation.
I don’t want to be miserable at my job because I love being a journalist. I want to wake up every morning and be excited to go to work. As a Generation Justice fellow, I have that feeling and it’s awesome! I want to keep this excitement, but in reality working at a major news outlet isn’t going to provide that because they have different values. Having Jeff talk about his student’s personal experiences and successes in alternative media really pushed me to think about my future. I started to question my journey to become a mainstream journalist.
What were the benefits and what would it cost? Would I have to lose my roots to the community in favor of the businessmen who own these outlets? Would it be worth it? Could I help change these corporate media outlets or would it change me? Will I have to lose my values?
All these questions swirled in my mind and the answers weren’t comforting. Then Jeff said something I will never forget. He told me “someday you won’t have to be in that box anymore.” The box Jeff was referring to was AP journalism because of the how it dictates the way stories are told.
I wanted to cry because I was so comforted by this idea. When I asked myself why I had such a visceral reaction, I realized how much I hate writing in AP style with AP values. This was something I hadn’t really noticed until this moment.
So, I made a pro-con list and looked at both types of media outlets. After some deliberation and personal reflection I’ve decided I want to work at an alternative, progressive media outlet. I’ll find an outlet where their journalism values match mine. I don’t know which one yet but I know where I’m headed. I’m happy to finally move into a field of journalism that fits me and my ideals as a journalist. I would like to thank Jeff Cohen and Generation Justice for guiding me to where I belong.