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Women/Minorities in Media
Looks vs. Brains?
What's News?
If it Bleads, it Leads
Building Community
The News Business
Behind the Story Photo of News Director

Telling the Story
Watch Video Community reporting can be challenging for any news organization, and especially so for television, which allows the subject's faces -- or those of the community members included in a story by the reporter -- to tell part of their stories. Sometimes, however, the face of a community is ambiguous, and the station or reporter has to work to define it. The role of the reporter, then, is not to build community strength -- the reporter is not a politician, after all -- but to alert the community to issues or events that may affect its stability or safety.

Building Community In LOCAL NEWS, education reporter Sterlin Benson Weber, in her coverage of North Carolina's school desegregation hearings, embodies the ideal of a reporter who looks for the people involved in community issues and shares their perspectives with the public, attempting to give her viewers well-rounded insights. Weber's community coverage included clips from the court trial, community board meetings, and interviews with education policymakers.

Watch Video Throughout the proceedings, Weber was constantly aware that she had an obligation to be objective. "I'm not trying to censor this. I just don't want to create a tone of strife because they are actually asking the community to heal itself and move on. And I don't want to use a lot of 'black' this ... It's so divisive ..." said Weber, who, as an African-American reporter covering school busing and desegregation, had to retain her objectivity and resist injecting her personal opinions into her reporting of the situation.

Portraying Stories Accurately
When the media attempts to cover any community, it often must work hard to create an accurate and complete representation of its subjects. The Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) workshop on covering race-related issues provides methods and techniques to assist reporters in adequately covering a community or group of individuals. One important suggestion is to discuss the story among reporters, editors, producers, and members of the local community in an attempt to gain a more complete perspective. The framing of each story has to be carefully considered by the news team and the reporter.

In LOCAL NEWS, this technique was used in several news meetings as WCNC team members shared their opinions and discussed the dynamics of the desegregation issue in each of their communities. By so doing, the team was better able to understand the hearts and minds of the people they were covering. Such meetings may also alert reporters to their own misconceptions and biases, and give them ideas about how to approach a community that may, at first, seem inaccessible. In covering ethnic communities, one of the biggest challenges is finding an angle that goes beyond the superficial. "... A journalist needs powerful tools -- the strong narrative, the increased sophistication, the kind of sensitive and honest reporting that peels another layer off the onion," says CJR.

Reaching Out
It can be especially difficult to reach out to communities that are not represented in the newsroom. Here, a reporter has no choice but to be open-minded and innovative. In recounting how Annie Nakao of THE SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER, a member of the CJR workshop, attempted to reach out, the report says, "To get Barsi talking, she drank coffee in his Italian-American social club, and homemade brandies in his garage. She advised editors at the workshop, 'Give your reporters time. Time allows your reporters to get out of the office and hang out at community listening posts, where real people can be found.'"

It takes an open mind to be a reporter who is in touch with local communities. It also requires much hard work, patience, and respectfulness. Covering any community may mean becoming, if only temporarily, part of that community. The most difficult part is telling the true stories of the people.

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