Community journalists speak about importance of local news

A panel of local news leaders spoke with early-career journalists May 27 about responsible reporting and relationship building


BRADLEY WILSON/Southwest Journalist

Ken Esten Cooke, the editor and publisher of the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post, says he can affect change through reporting responsibly during a panel discussion with young journalists on May 27.

LAUREN GUZY and GAYLA MURPHY, Southwest Journalist

Working for the “big guys” may be the goal of many young journalists fresh out of college, but the greatest impact might be on a smaller scale.

The Dow Jones News Fund Center for Editing Excellence hosted a Texas Press Association panel Friday. Award-winning writers and editors spoke to aspiring journalists about the impact they have in their communities, the relationships they have built, and the changes reporters can make at the local level.

All of the panelists are from small Texas towns and spoke on how their journalism careers have been impacted by the people of their communities.

Yvonne Mintz has spent 25 years with The Facts, where she now serves as editor and publisher of the Brazoria County-based paper. She spoke of her active role in the town of Clute, outside of her job. 

Mintz is a member of the Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce, and takes an active role at her children’s school. She is connected to her role in the community, which motivates her to get important information to her readers.

I fell in love with the community and my ability to make change within the community. … I have a job that makes a difference.

— Yvonne Mintz

“I fell in love with the community and my ability to make change within the community. … I have a job that makes a difference,” Mintz said.

While being a part of the community comes with great reward, being a journalist also comes with great responsibility, the panelists said. As a member of a newspaper staff, Mintz said there’s a delicate balance between her work and her personal life. Mintz and Ken Esten Cooke, publisher and editor of the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post, both emphasized the need to maintain a standard of integrity.

“I realize that I have a bully pulpit where I am,” Cooke said. There are numerous outlets where people can choose to get their news, but as long as he reports responsibly, Cooke knows he can effect change, he said.

Cooke said local journalists should be prepared to run into the subjects of their stories around town and in the grocery store aisles. This demonstrates that being a journalist in a small, tight-knit community enables journalists to see the impact their stories have more easily than they can in a large city.

Abigail Allen, managing editor of The Pilot Point Post-Signal, said she frequents her local coffee shop and is known by her readers for her distinctive laugh wherever she goes.
“Those relationships matter a lot,” Allen said. “There’s things like that where you make those connections.”

Allen said the most meaningful compliment she can receive from her readers is when a member of the community asks her if she grew up in Denton County.
Allen is not a native, but she has ingrained herself into the area, which impacts her reporting and the work she has put into connecting with the community.

She also accepts that she has an active role as an agent for news.

“I try to be kind when I’m interacting with people because I try to keep in mind I’m an ambassador for the paper,” Allen said.
The panelists all said that journalism has the potential to touch many people and mold a community. 

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