Journalism is the First Draft

Rebekah Davis, Assistant Editor

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These iconic words, said by Philip Graham of The Washington Post, made me cry over spring break. Does that make me weird? Probably.

Here’s the thing: what I do- what I love to do- matters. Journalists play one of the most important roles on the face of this earth, if I do say so myself. Don’t believe me? Think about the Watergate Scandal. Think about the Pentagon Papers. Think about the Food Lion food safety scandal in the ‘90s. None of that corruption would have been known about without the courage and determination of journalists.

So, as I was walking through the Newseum in Washington, D.C., I couldn’t help but tear up when I walked through the memorial for journalists who died while reporting. It’s so honoring to be pursuing the same profession as those who died to bring the public the news.

At the memorial, there was a very tall wall. It had rows and rows of pictures going from the floor up, but they stopped half way. The rest was white, lined with shelves for the next generations of reporters who would die while reporting. I was with Rachel Droze, another student on the trip, and she said to me, “I don’t know what’s worse- that there are so many faces or that there is so much room for more.”

Another quote from the Newseum really struck me, and it was when I read it that I realized that journalism runs deep in my veins.

“There are three kinds of people who run towards disaster, not away: cops, firemen and reporters.”

Rod Dreher of the New York Post said that beauty. And what a true anthem that I live by. Let me give you a few examples. When “1:12” was spray painted all over campus last year, I was talking to Tucker Mitchell and Dr. Fred Carter about what SLED said.

When the fire alarms went off in CEMC the week before spring break, I went to see what was on fire. Sneak peak: it was a Hot Pocket.

When I went outside for a breath of fresh air from the Writing Center and saw RAs throwing Easter eggs everywhere, I went out there for interviews and photos.

Why? Because I run towards the excitement. I run towards the danger. I make, sometimes stupid, choices that make sure I have the scoop and know what’s going on.

Now, I’m not saying that running towards a burning microwave is going to get me front page above the fold on The New York Times, but it’ll make me feel kind of important because I can go on Facebook and tell students not to worry. The school isn’t burning down; somebody just put a Hot Pocket wrapped in tin foil in the microwave. Will my post save a life? Probably not. Will it help people calm down and not panic? Probably.

Journalists have a huge job. Journalists really do write the first draft of history – they are the first ones to tell the public what’s going on, especially back in the days when there was no social media, just a one-page newspaper.

But there was one final quote that really stuck with me. It’s applicable to me. It’s applicable to most of the people who work for The Patriot. It’s applicable to the students, the reporters, the courageous and the historians. H.L. Mencken said it, and there is almost nothing truer I can think of. “

I know of no human being who has a better time than an eager and energetic young reporter.”

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