Eastern New Mexico News writer and publisher David Stevens has been in journalism for 40 years.
Stevens said he knew he had a knack for writing from a very young age, and when considering careers, he asked himself, “What can I do (if I want to) write?” The answer: Writing for a newspaper.
Stevens was a freshman [BA1] when he began gaining experience in journalism. He began in 1979 as a clerk for the sports department of a newspaper based out of Amarillo, Texas, spending a lot of time compiling sports scores. The managing editor hired Stevens based on whether he could type – Stevens finished in third place at a university typing competition as a high schooler, so the job was his. He eventually became a sports writer and moved to news.
Stevens said the technological advances in journalism have been the biggest change. When he began 40 years ago, writers were to type stories on a typewriter and scan copies into a computer system to generate a newspaper. At that time, news was published only once a day. Today, computers have replaced typewriters, and with the Internet, news outlets can publish stories instantly and can update those stories several times a day. With computers and the Internet, newspapers face much more competition and have far more resources available, according to Stevens.
However, with the accessibility of the Internet, Stevens said the very definition of “journalist” has changed. Now, any individual can publish their own “news” via blog posts or social media, ignoring a responsibility to be an “objective observer,” according to Stevens. He said although the basic premise of journalism has not changed, providing as much information as possible in as a fair a manner as possible has; many newspapers are nothing but a few opinion pages.
“It’s not about what you think; it’s about what happened and trying to relay that information to the reader,” said Stevens.
To Stevens, journalistic integrity means getting every side of the story and remaining fair and objective. He said it is imperative that journalists gather statements from everyone involved with a story to reach a good overview of what happened.
“Everyone is biased, naturally, but a journalist needs to try and get past that,” he said.
Stevens said his greatest lesson in journalism was to “[never] assume you know what’s going on until you have done your homework.”
He shared a story of his early days as a young reporter. He wrote a story about an altercation at a softball game, writing within his story that if the referees had broken up the altercation, the incident would have had less impact. Stevens said he learned that day that a journalist is only supposed to write about what did happen, not about what could have happened.
[BA1]A freshman in what? High school? College?