Local journalists tell their stories

Richmond-based journalists convened at nonprofit artspace Gallery5 for a Secretly Y’all: Headlines, a storytelling event based around their experiences in the industry on Nov. 21.

Illustration by Carson McNamara
Illustration by Carson McNamara

With most events falling every other month, Secretly Y’all relies on raw storytelling, unprompted by notes, to deliver a message to the audience. The $5 door fee for their events is donated to a Richmond-based charity or project.

This lineup, entitled “Headlines,” focused on past experiences of local journalists and their insight into the tasks that remain ahead in the profession.

“I’m starting to feel that the most important stories I will do, and that all of us will do, are ahead,” said Richmond Times-Dispatch Metro Columnist, Michael Paul Williams, when alluding to the uncertainty of the modern political climate.

While taking a hiatus from writing columns, Williams said he attempted a large-scale examination of Richmond Public Schools, which included shadowing several students. He said it ultimately fell through due to issues with consent forms and other “roadblocks” set by the district.

In a Times-Dispatch piece, Williams reflected on how successes with similar projects in surrounding schools contrasted with his own experience, attributing the termination to the current political climate, among other factors.

Williams said that as a journalist, “you get real cynical about the capacity of people to do good,” but that the experience of covering the Armstrong High School Choir’s 2012 plight to compete in New York City gave him needed optimism. The group received over $20,000 in donations over a weeklong period.

Taking the stage back a few decades, Harry Kollatz of Richmond Magazine recalled the events that transpired at the dawn of his journalistic career. Former Style Weekly Reporter Chris Dovi detailed his experiences covering former Richmond Mayor Douglas Wilder’s attempted eviction of the school board offices from the City Hall building in 2007.

“There was something in the air on Sept. 22,” Dovi said.

When Katy Evans took the stage, she added a few personal anecdotes to begin.

“When I told my mother I would be telling a story to a room of mostly strangers, she laughed outloud,” Evans said.

As a relatively new Metro Enterprise and Investigative reporter for the Times-Dispatch, Evans expressed sentiments similar to those of Williams.

In early fall of this year, Evans said she wrote a piece detailing the cover-up of information related to the death of an individual in the custody of Hampton Roads Regional Jail.

“No one wanted to talk about it,” Evans said. “Like most good stories I write, this thing made me mad.”

Williams echoed support for Evans in an anecdote of his own talk: “(Evans) gets mad about the right things,” he said.

Williams said this characteristic is essential for journalists.

“There was at least one moment where I let my guard down and became a human first and a reporter second,” Evans said.

Editor of GayRVA and web editor for RVA Magazine Brad Kutner concluded the lineup with narratives on his experience working for the prior publication. Kutner focused his points in the light of the election, recalling his personal emotions when he saw red filling the electoral map. Kutner said LGBTQ gun club membership spiked after the election.

Kutner also discussed the issue of reporting on LGBTQ news in “Trump’s America.”

“One of the most important things that we’re going to do as journalists is tell the stories of people,” Kutner said.

Georgia Geen, Contributing Writer


Carson McNamara. photo by Julie TrippCarson McNamara
Carson McNamara is a senior in Communication Arts who loves contributing to narratives through Editorial Illustration. She drinks a lot of coffee and reads a lot of books for toddlers.
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