VIDEO: Former WOUB students talk to current students about how to report on racial issues on campus

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The discussion occurred during the WOUB Black Alumni and Student Mentoring Group this week

ATHENS, OH – Students working in the newsroom of WOUB Public Media are covering the fallout of two incidents in campus residence halls directed at Black students. During Wednesday night’s WOUB Black Alumni and Student Mentoring Group meeting, current students asked the two featured speakers, who are former WOUB students currently working in the media industry, advice on how to cover the story as Black journalists.

“Be a journalist. Be a journalist,” said former VP of WDSC TV – PBS Daytona Beach and former ESPN Studio Supervisor Bruce Dunn ’82. “Don’t try to sit there and second guess what you should be asking them, but at the same time be neutral and be a journalist. Get the facts. Find out what the situation was. Get their feelings about the situation. Do not interject any of your personal things. Do not start agreeing with them and becoming a part of it because then you’ll lose credibility with the others. You can’t side with it. You have to stay neutral.”

“It’s important to be not only unbiased and neutral, but to be even handed,” said Pittsburgh Television News and Sports Anchor Andrew Stockey ’89. “And If you’re going to hear from one side, let’s hear from the other side.”

The WOUB Black Alumni and Student Mentoring Group meets virtually a couple of times a semester to bring together current and former WOUB students. The group discusses issues that are unique to people of color in the media industry.

Dunn and Stockey talked with the students about how covering a story of this nature is difficult because of how it personally impacts them as Black students on campus. But they both said the students need to remember their journalistic role when reporting for WOUB and telling the story.

“Yes, because you are a Black man, it affects you, hearing about this. But you have to remember that your viewers are watching you for your information because you are an authority that is unbiased and can present the facts and can be even handed,” said Stockey.

“That’s one of the hardest things to do,” said Dunn. “Yes, it affects you, but that’s not your role right now. Your role is to report the news.”

“Your audience, they know you’re Black, that’s obvious,” said Stockey. “But what you say and the way you present the information it should come across as just a journalist, as a person asking the questions, getting the answers.”

“Back in 1978, WOUB Radio, I literally did an interview with the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan from Columbus, Ohio. That was rough, but because we were doing it as a news piece,” said Dunn. “I conducted that interview, and I conducted it professionally.”

Both men talked to the students about the unique perspective they can bring to the story because they are Black.

“I think one advantage you do have is because you are a Black person, maybe you know what questions to ask that perhaps other journalists that don’t look like you wouldn’t ask or are afraid to ask,” said Stockey. “You have an advantage over some journalists because you understand where these people are coming from, and how they are interpreting it. Now the job is to ask the question without bias and allowing them to share their feelings.”

Student André Norrils, a junior news and information major in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, told Dunn and Stockey about how this is one of the biggest stories he has ever had to cover as a young reporter. He said he is so focused on the story and getting it right that the weight of what is happening around him hasn’t truly hit him yet.

“Journalism is not glamorous. It’s not about being on TV. It’s about telling a difficult story and allowing people to form their own judgments and telling it fairly,” said Stockey. “Don’t be afraid of this. Don’t worry. Just go out there and tell the truth, as people are telling you their truth.”

“When you sit down and have time to reflect, it will hit you.” said Dunn.

“This is something you can be really proud of, if you do the right way. And you do it in a way that comes across as a professional, unbiased, and hopefully enlightening to the audience because that’s who you are serving,” said Stockey. “It’s about the audience. It’s not about you. It’s not about me. When I’m on television the last thing I’m thinking about is do people want to know what I think? No. Nobody cares what I think. It’s what do I know. What have I learned? What can I share?”