Haueter: Tell the story


Courtesy of Bernard Hermant via Unsplash

Editor-in-Chief and columnist Kylee Haueter reminds readers how to tell the story. 

Kylee Haueter

During the fall semester, I had an amazing opportunity. I took a class where we investigated a cold case — the 1968 murder of an Iowa State student, which has never been solved.

I learned a lot during my time researching the case and producing content. 

When you’re a journalist, you want to make sure you are keeping some distance from whatever it is you’re covering to maintain objectivity. What a lot of journalists don’t talk about is that sometimes you have to get close to a story. 

I’m used to working on autopilot, even when it comes to stories about violent crime or a missing person. I get a press release, get some quotes, then throw a story together. I have always prided myself on my ability to not let stories really affect me. 

Last year, that changed. I covered a few stories where I struggled to not let myself feel close to the story, and I beat myself up over it, thinking I was a failure of a journalist. 

Last semester, I learned that it’s okay to get close to a story, and sometimes, it’s necessary.

True crime has become a form of entertainment. Crime podcasts and documentaries are incredibly popular forms of media.

To a certain extent, there is nothing wrong with that. Learning about these cases can teach us about safety as well as show us areas in our criminal justice system that need fixing. 

The problem arises when these cases are turned into just entertainment with no purpose other than to make money and build an audience. Over the course of the semester, I would find myself slipping into the mindset of viewership — how much would this project bring to our website? 

I had to remind myself that the purpose of this project wasn’t to please our audience. The purpose was to tell the story of a young woman whose life was taken from her too soon. Because of missteps in the investigation, it’s possible that her killer will never be brought to justice. Our purpose was to give her the little bit of justice that we could.

That is so often the mistake that journalists make. We strive for objectivity, and because of that, we get too far away from a story — to the point that we start focusing on things other than the story. 

This isn’t just applicable to journalists. There are plenty of careers and hobbies that involve telling a story. It could be teaching. It could be advocacy. It could be law. 

Tell the story. Don’t be the story, and don’t focus on what the story could do for you. Your purpose isn’t to be the most famous *enter career here* because you profited off someone else’s story. Your purpose is to tell their story because you care.