Public Media Network Journalist - Raine Kuch
Lessons learned in lecture halls have gotten hazier in my mind a year after earning my degree. After graduating from Western Michigan University in the spring of 2020 with a degree in music and journalism, I quickly transitioned from college student to full-time journalist with the Public Media Network.
Real world journalism experience has begun to rewrite some of the theoretical information I memorized in the classroom. No lesson was more heavily stressed to journalism students than the importance of remaining unbiased. This meant abstaining from sharing my views over public platforms like social media, only saying the facts, and telling all sides of a story. Put together, these three rules were the recipe for retaining my credibility.
I kept this gem of wisdom close to me as I began my first job as a full-time journalist, only to quickly realize that what it asked of me was actually impossible.
George Floyd’s death flooded the media in May, and the effect was polarizing. Those who marched in the streets were labeled by some as protestors; others called them rioters.
Being a journalist became difficult when the topic we were expected to remain unbiased on was fundamental rights. Journalists are told not to share their views, but when that view is, “I do not support racism,” why shouldn’t we share it?
The truth is, even when journalists are only telling facts, we are still sharing what we think. Based on the stories we decide to write, we are sharing what we think is important; based on the sources we place at the top, we are showing whose opinions we align with; based on how we frame the story, we are sharing how a particular event or topic looks through our eyes.
We even bring our own cultural stand-point to each story. I view everything through the eyes of a white, middle-classed woman with a college degree, and no matter how hard I might try, that is the lens through which I tell every story.
So how can journalists do their job if remaining unbiased is an impossible goal?
For me, I had to change the questions I ask myself. Journalists are in the privileged position of deciding what people know. We control the narrative. We can keep coverage going on a topic or bring something else to the forefront. That’s why when I’m feeling conflicted, I always ask myself, “what journalism best serves the community?” In a way, every piece of reporting I do is my answer to this question.
I think journalism best serves the community when it amplifies voices that aren’t often represented in mainstream media. When it focuses on solutions, not just on the problems themselves. I think journalism should keep important conversations going in our community, like those surrounding racial justice, and I think that the community should play an active role in crafting the news media they see.
Even though I am falling short of my professor’s expectations to remain unbiased, I don’t sweat it anymore if my story selection is like a neon sign pointing to my opinions. I believe that fundamental human rights are not an opinion, and I’d be happy to see that reflected in my writing.
Raine KuchCommunity Documenter/Journalist
I think journalism best serves the community when it amplifies voices that aren’t often represented in mainstream media. When it focuses on solutions, not just on the problems themselves. I think journalism should keep important conversations going in our community, like those surrounding racial justice, and I think that the community should play an active role in crafting the news media they see. Read more about how I approach my work.
Email: rkuch[at]publicmedianet.org | Phone: 269.343.2211