Getting to Know Russell Contreras
It was truly an honor to have Russell Contreras, a journalist for diversity and reporter at the Associated Press, at Ohio University. His humor and brilliance kept the conversations sharp and interesting. His background on immigration and minority affairs reporting also made his point of view on the political views and issues with this past election.
Contreras' time spent talking to journalism students gave perspective on the election, the responsibilities of telling the truth in journalism, and discussed social media's role in the evolution of coverage. Although many of these topics can be very dense, he also reminded the students and faculty that not everything in journalism needs to be negative.
This Election and the Differing Political Views
In Contreras' discussion, he mentioned that politics has grown to become a competition. Winning an election is no longer about a fair race, but instead it has become a fighting ring.
It was very clear in this presidential election that domination over your partner was far more important than the messages you wanted to share with the people. It's very clear that America is split and neither side wants to negotiate.
Since neither side can come to an agreement, it only encouraged the hype of both candidates' campaigns. Contreras compared the information that people needed to hear as broccoli, and the information that people needed to hear as fries or sweets.
The audience craved the fat and the unhealthy facts that were hitting social media, and it seemed that the reporters were craving this coverage. At the same time, many felt guilty for having all the juicy messages.
This election struggled to keep the truthful coverage separated from the fictional stories that were hitting the internet and social media.
Always Tell the Truth
According to SPJ's Code of Ethics, it is a journalists main responsibility to seek the truth and report it.
Journalists face the issue all the time to tell the truth, and it doesn't stop at your own work. It's also the responsibility of journalists to inform others of false information if they notice an article or post is false.
This can cause issues for many, and more often than not people who are trying to be helpful will be called ignorant for calling an inaccurate article out. Contreras mentioned that it is better to be criticized for surfacing the truth and informing the audience than to do nothing at all.
He discussed that many times over this election he had been criticized for being unfair, but he continued to say that his one mission is the truth. If you stay professional and fair, then you are doing the best you can as a journalist.
Social Media's Role in the Election
In the past several years, social media has grown and information now spreads faster than ever before. This year, social media became the battle ground for the election. Social media causes so many issues because it revolves around what people want to read and not what they need to read in order to become educated.
Another issue that occurs is that many of the cites that are created to share on different medias are fake and contain false information.
The best thing journalists can do is read accurate and truthful cites that contain information that may be different than their typical coverage. It's important to view the world on a larger spectrum and not to put yourself in a bubble.
Everything is Not Negative in Journalism
One way to expand your horizons is to look for positive or funny stories. This helps bring together the country instead of letting it be divided as Red and Blue.
One of the best AP twitter accounts is about the oddest stories from all over the country. Although many are extremely humorous, they still serve the purpose of real and purposeful journalism.
Sometimes it's important to take a step back and look for the bigger picture of things going on in the world.
Overall, Contreras took it upon himself to remind journalists that the point of journalism is to produce the story and give the audience the information they need. Journalists need to remember not to make themselves the story, but instead they should focus on the world around them.
He was so successful because he did not talk about what he could do, but instead he took action. If you stay humble and start doing what you say you will, then you will go very far in journalism and in life.