I like to think of myself as someone who usually sees the glass as half full, expects everyone to have manners, and truly believe people are inherently good rather than evil. I grew up in a suburb of Washington D.C. in northern Virginia where a majority of the people are very well educated and most work for the government or military. I’ve learned typically, well educated translates into a person with manners and civilized. I think because of this, I expect people to go through life being nice and well mannered. Well, let’s just say I’ve picked the wrong profession to continue expecting people to act right. I would say generally 80% of the people I encounter out in the field are generally nice, but the last 20% can be downright rude. It actually still startles me when people act abrasive toward me when I am being completely respectful when seeking on camera interviews.
I do undersand to an extent, journalists are typically percieved as nosy and nagging people. People think we exist just to bug them and exploit people’s pain and sadness. On the contrary, I truly believe as journalists, we are always looking out for the best interest of the public. Corrupt politicians? Let’s bust them for selfishly using tax payer money! A group home facility lets a woman die under their watch? Let’s demand accountibility so this doesn’t happen again! Trailer park owners neglect their water system so badly, the residents have to go days without it? Let’s hound them until the residents have clean water! But then sometimes, we get asked to go knock on the doors of family members who just lost a loved one. Many may think, what is the news value in talking to grieving family members? Everybody has a different answer, but mine would be sometimes, there isn’t any news value and it is simply sensational to get the crying mother on camera. However, other times a grieving family member can offer a silver lining, that somebody watching the story at home who may also be dealing with loss can find comfort in with a shared experience. Othertimes, a family member can be the voice that is the pang in the heart of a politician who has the power to make the change to ensure that another loved one isn’t lost on let’s say, a dangerous road.
However, some people don’t see it that way, they only see us as rude and intrusive. For example, Abbey Niezgoda a reporter up north in Rhode Island was sent to go ask a woman how she felt about a kindergarden graduation party shooting. The woman felt very upset about Niezgoda wanting an interview, so she sic’d her dogs on Abbey. You can watch that video here. I watched this video in horror, this could easily happen to me, except I would be alone.
In fact, I was confronted very rudely at a Bossier trailer park after I had done extensive investigative work on a trailer park whose owners were neglecting their water system. It was so bad that the state health department was also investigating and residents were constantly calling me to complain about the quality of their water. You can watch that video below. It just goes back to the fact that goes against what I grew up believing that not everyone is nice. I’ve even had a couple of ladies yell at me saying that I personally ruined their day because a bunch of parents were upset at how a program was being run at their school and I shouldn’t have run the story because I’m giving them bad PR. Huh? Am I their media spokesman? I don’t think so. The fact that not everyone will treat journalists with respect may seem obvious to everyone else, but it’s actually something that I’ve had to learn in this career. “If you’re not making someone mad, then you’re not doing your job” is a good quote to remember. After all, if you’re only reporting fluffy feel good stories, that’s not journalism, that’s public relations.
Here is the video of a family member of the trailer park owner slapping my camera around when I was shadowing the health department run a test on the water system.