- SLC refugee agencies fight for time, money
- Diversity is complicated for refugees in Utah
- SLC charter school helps refugee students become ‘citizens’
- Lost in translation: A check-up with a Burmese refugee
MY BLOG: Objectivity in reporting
As I began my beat, I pledged that I would be faithful to the venerated standards of objective reporting. Nothing is worse, I thought, than the sort of weak thinking that springs from bias and predisposition. I guess I didn’t want to be the journalist whom anyone could accuse of having axes to grind, except, of course, the pursuit of truth, fairness and objectivity. I was not prepared for the challenge that covering the refugee and immigrant community would pose to my impartiality.
Do many people struggle to overcome political ideologies, prejudices and intolerance when dealing with marginalized populations? I didn’t have this problem. Reaching a level of sympathy with the refugee population was easy. Instead, my problem was that I was becoming an advocate through my reporting.
Gerald Brown, director of the Refugee Services Office in the Department of Workforce Services, said in an in-class interview that the very best activists are those who have first-hand experience with diverse populations. I interviewed Catherine Findlay, the outreach coordinator for a new refugee-centered charter school in West Valley. Her entire job, she said, is to get people excited about what her organization is doing. She did: I was excited, to the point I felt I needed to apologize for my enthusiasm.
So I found myself faced with the question: “How do I report on the weaknesses of the system, when doing so could do so much harm?” It seems the refugee services community are either ignored in the press or are painted as beleaguered saviors. Are they untouchable? What is the ethical dilemma, if any, in exploring the mismanagement or poor judgment of organizations that many people rely so heavily on? Is it wrong to report on the prejudices and racism that a social worker may have? Or to explore rumors about a social worker who allegedly provides services only to families with young women? How do I uncover the truth when it seems all odds are stacked against the system to begin with?
I don’t have any easy answers. I have an obligation to the truth and an obligation to do no harm. I didn’t expect to struggle separating the objective from the objectivity.
Brady Leavitt, 23, is a journalism student at the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City, Utah. He currently works at Basecamp Franchising, applying his writing skills in a business setting.
He is the third of seven children and has had broad international experience with his family. When Brady was 10, his family moved from Evansville, Ind., to Jakarta, Indonesia. He moved to Bangkok, Thailand, two years later then moved to Utah in 2001. Brady served a two-year LDS mission in Thailand. He worked in Thailand again as an intern for the King Prajadipok’s institute through the U’s Hinckley Institute of Politics.
Brady enjoys the reporting process because it allows him to meet people and to “get nosy.” He is an avid long-distance runner and swimmer. He plays guitar and sings and hopes to start a band some day. He takes great pride in his Geo Prizm with its peeling green paint and swears he will drive it until the wheels fall off. He is engaged to Melanie Martinez who is praying that the wheels fall off soon.