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Another Voice: Journalists tell the stories in our communities

By Pauline W. Hoffmann

Each year we welcome to our campus students interested in making a difference and changing the world. They arrive knowing that the written word is impactful.

We teach them how to gather, analyze and report information in an ethical manner. We teach them to tell stories – stories that each of us has; stories so important to the maintenance of our democracy and a reminder of our humanity. Our hearts are heavy in memory of all journalists who are imprisoned or executed for doing their jobs – telling stories. And we encourage and prepare those who are willing to join in the fight.

The recent heartless shooting of two journalists, Alison Parker and Adam Ward of station WDBJ in Roanoke, Va., by former colleague Vester Lee Flanagan II has sparked conversation related to gun violence and mental illness, as it should. It also reminds us of the important role of journalists.

Journalists are our watchdogs. Journalists are our gatekeepers. Journalists are our moral compasses. Journalists tell the stories in our communities, both serious and light-hearted. Journalists provide a voice to the voiceless.

Journalists are in every corner of the world telling stories. There is an embedded journalist in Syria reporting on the atrocities that occur there daily. There is a journalist in Afghanistan reporting on the crimes against women. There is a journalist taping a community feature story for the information of viewers.

The Committee to Protect Journalists notes that worldwide, journalists are in jeopardy each day. In fact, journalists covering corruption, politics and war are in particular danger. With the proliferation of social media, everyone “can” be a journalist. We are privy to news in a way we hadn’t been in the past.

We get the immediacy and we also get the uncensored. We see what before was described with words only. We wonder what kind of person decides to accept that sort of danger in the name of a good story.

But it goes beyond getting a good story. Journalists have a calling much as other professions do and journalists have a mission. Imagine a world in which we have no news or information telling us that civil rights are in jeopardy across the globe and even in our own backyard; telling us that our politicians may not be behaving in the best interest of constituents; telling us that the victims of war are more than the soldiers fighting.

Journalism may be a dangerous profession but it is also a noble and important profession. I am thankful each day for the role journalism has played in my life and in the lives of those with whom I work.

Pauline W. Hoffmann, Ph.D., is dean of the Russell J. Jandoli School of Journalism and Mass Communications at St. Bonaventure University in Olean.