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Advocating for the truth

What exactly do journalists do? How can their efforts influence policy or make a positive difference within their communities? This profile is part of a project by students at the University of South Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communications to explore the humanity of journalists, highlight the impact of their work and advocate for the profession’s value.

Posted October 7, 2019. By Blakelee Cannon, public relations major.

It can be easy to read news articles without realizing the challenges journalists face to create stories that are fair, accurate and concise. Jeffrey Collins from The Associated Press says those challenges are part of the job for journalists, and with the surge of distrust toward the media, these skills are critical to keeping the public informed of the events and issues affecting their communities.
 
“You have to work a lot harder to gain someone’s trust, which isn’t totally a bad thing,” Collins says. “I want someone to feel like they can trust me before I can tell their story.”

To gain trust, Collins ensures that when he reports the news, he is concise while staying clear, but it isn’t always easy. He recalls 2015 when the South Carolina House of Representatives engaged in a heated debate that dragged on for more than 12 hours before the decision was made to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds. Following the debate, he broke down the highlights into 900 words for his readers.

“I help people find out more about the world around them­­ — it is an awesome responsibility,” Collins says.

However, he fears that the growing distrust of journalists could contribute to the demise of the media organizations that set a high standard for how facts are gathered, vetted and reported. He hopes that news consumers think critically about the stories they encounter and remember that journalists are people doing their jobs.

 “Journalists are human, just like the people who read their stories,” he says.


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