mission of journalism
Bennett Brinkman, his grandmother, Helen Ford Sanger Wallace, and his mother, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, attend a University of Oklahoma ceremony Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, during which Wallace was presented the Regents' Award for Outstanding Alumni after a career of more than 60 years in journalism. (Provided)

I have been around newsrooms my whole life.

With a mom and grandma who both worked at The Oklahoman for years, I grew up with news and community reporting as a fact of my daily life.

So when I decided to major in journalism during my first semester at the University of Oklahoma, I felt a definite sense of homecoming. The people in the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication were the same curious and passionate people with whom I’d grown up. My mom’s random knowledge of facts and people that had so annoyed me when I was younger now manifested itself in my professors and classmates. The work I started doing seemed almost familiar, and journalistic interviewing and reporting were much more comforting than the academic research and writing I did for other classes.

After some time in my major, I realized I had taken a few parts of journalism for granted. These were the less easily seen (but arguably more impactful) elements. I had always heard that journalism was a profession for the generally curious and for those who loved their community, and I appreciated this idea, for I identified with both qualities. There was another element, though, that I had yet to understand: that the driving force behind most journalists’ work is a desire to make a difference, to create some good in their communities.

When I started studying journalism in college, my mom, grandma and other journalists I knew all jokingly told me I should do something else and “get out while I still could.” I joked back. Hadn’t they been doing the job for years? If they were telling me to get out, why were they still doing it?

They told me that, although they loved their jobs, journalism does not lend itself to any easy or comfortable life. To be clear, they were always supportive of me in all that I did, but they also wanted me to consider how tough journalism can be. I understood that, but this “advice” was coming from journalists who had been in the profession for years. Surely they had decided to stick with journalism for a reason.

The journalistic mission

As my collegiate career progressed, I started doing journalism and having conversations about its purpose in my classes. I reported for The OU Daily, covering the people and groups working to drive change on OU’s campus. I spent a semester in Washington, D.C., reporting for Gaylord News and covering the entire Oklahoma community. In my classes, we discussed examples of journalism that made a real difference in communities, improving countless lives.

I walked away from every interview and class discussion feeling such joy. I reread pieces I wrote with so much pride. These feelings were not because of something I had accomplished, but rather they stemmed from connections I had made and good I felt I had created. I realized that doing journalism required an understanding of its purpose and one’s place in the mission to achieve it.

Community is the foundation of that purpose. I have always loved being a part of Oklahoma, and I think there is real value in growing up here, where our state’s relevance or value is not always apparent to people on the outside. Being in an overlooked community forces us to band together in a way that should promote accomplishments and celebrate successes.

I find joy in journalism because it helps create good in my community — even (or especially) when the stories are not flattering but show us ways we can improve. I love getting to help drive that change.

I am incredibly excited to be working as a reporting intern at NonDoc this summer, and I know the journalism family that surrounds me is excited for me, too. The mission of journalism can be tough at times, but it also can be so rewarding. I have always found it easiest to choose joy by doing good, and I know that I will be able to do so with my reporting this summer.