Aspiring reporters confront tough issues during internships

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By now our Pulliam interns are well settled into their placements across the state’s newsrooms. But a few weeks ago, we welcomed them into the HSPA conference room for orientation, fresh from their school years and eager to learn.
I was impressed by their curiosity and convictions — and hopeful that such a group of students is seeking to be the future of our industry.

During the Q&A section they, as budding reporters always should, asked many thoughtful questions. One in particular stuck with me, and has hung on in the aftermath of the horrific mass shooting in Uvalde.

The questioning intern is a precocious young reporter who is the editor of her school paper. She spoke of the decision to run a story reporting on the death of a student in an on-campus car accident. In a way, she lamented doing so, and questioned the ethics of it.

Our panel — and the other students — immediately reassured her that they had done the right thing. The hard thing, but the right thing. Because in a world where terrible events seem to be crescendoing to an almost intolerable daily occurrence, bearing witness through the written word is ever more important.

… in a world where terrible events seem to be crescendoing to an almost intolerable daily occurrence, bearing witness through the written word is ever more important.

The only semblance of solace afforded to the family members of the victims of the Uvalde shooting was that millions of people around the country and world remembered their loved ones with them and wept tears of grief over their loss. But it’s more than the shared memory of the lives shattered, it was the call to action that arose out of those memories, made possible only by extensive reporting.

For the first time in decades new federal gun laws were passed due in large part to the resounding outcry of the people.

But there are forces that don’t agree, those that whisper in the ears of our lawmakers about privacy concerns and control of the narrative. We saw it last session with a bill that sought to further redact public records containing juveniles’ names.

We were able to reach a compromise, but again this year the Uniform Law Commission is touting privacy concerns; this time seeking to redact public officials’ home addresses.

Our world, as ever, is in need and change, and limiting the public record is no way to do that. We must bear witness, we must be spurred to action. And we must continue reporting on what happens in our communities, especially when it is tragic and harrowing.

There are many duties assigned to our newspapers and this is just one more. I hope our interns understood this in our orientation and will continue to carry the mantle.

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