Reflections from departing editor-in-chief during tough times for journalists
By Rebecca Panico | Published Dec. 12, 2016
As I enter my last semester at Kean University and leave my post as editor-in-chief to handle web development for The Tower, I’ve been reflecting on my experiences throughout my academic career.
It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve as a student reporter, news editor, co-editor and editor-in-chief at The Tower, where we’ve won several awards for our work. I want to ensure this work is seen by our audience, which is why I’m taking on social media and online engagement next semester.
I’m handing over the reins to devote more time to look for work as a reporter during a challenging time for journalists: Few people understand the important role we play in a democracy.
Journalists — even at the college level — are needed to hold people accountable and give a voice to the voiceless. They are the eyes and ears of their communities and scribes of history.
Yet, an annual Gallup poll found that only 32 percent of those they surveyed had a “great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in the media this year, down from an all-time high of 72 percent in 1976.
Career Cast rated newspaper reporter as the worst job of 2016, behind pest control worker, enlisted military personnel and firefighters. The report cited low pay, high stress and a decline in available jobs for the rating. Broadcaster trailed close behind at 198 out of the 200 rated jobs.
Meanwhile, our president-elect would like to make it easier to sue journalists, fake news is trending and objectivity has become synonymous with normalizing.
Being a journalist today can be alienating at times. All the arguments, phone hang ups and negative online comments have sometimes been discouraging.
Even as a student-journalist, I’ve experienced people on both sides of a story who dislike my reporting. That must mean I’m doing a horrible job, or a really good one.
Despite this, I can’t deny the call to pursue the basic tenets of journalism: truth, accuracy, fairness, independence, transparency and humanity.
Journalism, to me, is much more than simply telling both sides of a story. It’s finding information that wasn’t on the surface for all to see. It’s asking people tough, uncomfortable questions and does not aim to promote or destroy. It’s sweating the details, in grammar and choice of words.
I hope I’ve left staff with an unwavering sense of the weight of words. I’ve come to view journalists as being similar to tattoo artists: Once you put it in ink, it’s there forever.
There is no such thing as a small, insignificant story. Words can and will have an impact on people, and this applies to our personal and professional lives too. Everything we do at The Tower does matter.
I would like to thank The Tower’s advisers, Pat Winters Lauro and Lois DeSocio, who have tamed my hot-headedness and kept the spark for reporting alive in me when I needed it the most.
I’d also like to thank this campus — all the students, faculty and staff — for giving me the opportunity to tell its whole story, both the highs and the lows.
If it weren’t for my experience at The Tower, I never would have landed an internship with The Jersey Journal. That opportunity exposed me to a great deal of experiences — some difficult to bear witness to, and others joyful. I’m truly indebted to The Journal for crafting me into the journalist I am today.
When I came to Kean University, I was an entirely different person. I was quiet, lacking in self esteem and dreaded picking up a phone to speak with strangers. I took up journalism because I enjoyed writing. I was in for a rude awakening once I quickly learned the difference between simply writing and reporting.
The journalism program has taught me to think critically about the world around me and how to think beyond myself. The act of listening and really understanding others requires a selfless soul.
I know I’ll be graduating in May with the tools necessary to succeed in the journalism field. Whatever the future holds, I’ll never forget my roots at Kean University and The Tower.