I am a journalist with an agenda

Illustration by Sammy Newman.

Brianna ScottOpinions Editor

I was never supposed to be a reporter or a writer. I should be wearing a Dairy Queen uniform right now, secretly making blizzards for myself to take home and serving ice cream to people for eight hours every day.

That was my dream career as a first grader.

I held onto that idea until I, like so many other young tweens, wanted to become a Disney Channel actress and singer. But I couldn’t act. Or sing.

That didn’t stop me from writing songs and asking my parents for a guitar for Christmas — I ended up cutting the guitar strings out of frustration of not being able to learn properly.

Eventually, I let go of that pipe dream and decided I wanted to be a teacher. It was an honest career move, despite many people warning me over the years of how little teachers make.

My plan of pursuing a teaching degree persisted until my junior year of high school. I fully intended to go to college and study history and become a history teacher.

Then I discovered journalism.

It’s corny, but I was part of my school’s broadcast morning announcements. I anchored, worked behind the cameras, ran the teleprompter and even got to be director a few times throughout the semester. I was on the yearbook staff, which was a class at my high school. I took photojournalism and video editing classes in which I put together packages, interviewed people and wrote scripts — I was a mini-journalist.

And I wasn’t bad at it … so I decided to pursue it as my major in college.

Whenever I tell people I’m a broadcast journalism major, I usually say it so fast that I have to repeat it. And then people ask me what it is, why I’m studying it and always make the joke that they’ll see me on CNN or another major news network.

The reality isn’t as glamorous as popping up spontaneously as an anchor of a major news organization.

Throughout my college career, my love for journalism has gone up and down. There have been so many nights I’ve stayed up trying to write a script for a package, pulling my hair out, in the editing bay staring at a blank project file in Adobe Premiere. There were times I felt so proud of my work, posting it all over social media and sending it to my parents.

I took criticisms from my professors pretty hard and considered journalism wasn’t for me, maybe I wasn’t cut out.  

But then I remember why I love this work. I feel like an activist.  

Before college, I had no experience with activism. That quickly changed during the #BlackLivesMatter era, when Donald Trump was elected as president and when I started to notice injustices at VCU.

I’ve spent my fair share of time making posters, being involved in planning protests, and standing face to face with people spewing oppressive rhetoric in my face as I held my ground.

As a journalist, I wanted to use my words to report about the issues I cared about and that impacted me the most.

Journalists uncover and expose the truth. We tell stories that are often neglected and forgotten about in the haze of mainstream media. We hold people accountable and go to great depths to investigate the unknown.

In that respect, journalism is inherently a form of activism. The definition of activism is to use direct and public methods to try to bring about social and political change. Journalists collect, write and publish or broadcast news stories and articles — those stories bring about change. Consciously or not, journalists are activists because of the social and political change their work brings.

The motto I live by as a journalist is a quote from Angela Davis: “I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”

Through my work as a journalist, I use my words and platform as tools to invoke change. I give the public all the facts and let the people decide what to make of them.

Many believe the job of journalists is to be objective, neutral robots with no thoughts of our own as if we aren’t human beings who have opinions about the world around us — and what goes on in it that we report about.

There’s nothing unethical about a journalist sharing their opinion so long as they are up front about it and have equally shared all sides to a story.

Before becoming an opinions writer, I did not want to ruin my reputation as a journalist by sharing my opinions. I did not want people to believe I was biased.

Truth is — I am biased. I have opinions. I am affected by what goes on in this world as much as you are. I am entitled to my opinion — journalist or not — as much as you are.

None of this hinders my competence as a reporter who upholds journalistic ethics and standards.

I am a journalist with an agenda.

My only agenda is to seek the truth and report it.

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