Originally published for The Sun Chronicle on Nov. 13, 2016.
It looked like a scene from any hard-hitting journalism film. A handful of reporters crowded around a small TV set looming above the newsroom, their keyboards still, eyes fixated on the screen. Waiting. Watching.
Breathing in the latest tragedy or breaking scandal like they have many times before because news is what we know best. It is how we cope. Except, this time, instead of an explosion or a harrowing death, it was the concession of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
And there we stood. Watching. Waiting. Hurting all in our own ways.
Minutes passed and the news moved on and so did they – getting back to work to produce Thursday’s version of The Sun Chronicle. And then there was me. A newbie. This was my first presidential election as a journalist and, foreseeably, probably one of the hardest.
I spent the months, weeks and days before the election watching the rest of the world blame a nasty presidential race on “the media,” lumping us into a singular category of corrupt, good-for-nothing scoundrels spreading lies and biases more than we did the truth.
I watched as one candidate went out of his way to say those things, to try to tear us down.
And then, I woke up Wednesday after a long night in the newsroom, and he was president. I woke up Wednesday wondering how I could ever be a journalist that day when I felt so empty inside.
When the fire that brought me to this profession was replaced with a shallow pit of fear that only seemed to deepen the more I consumed what was happening around me.
I sat, silent, at my desk, flipping through pages of notes and working to escape the chatter in my head. It wasn’t easy. I thought hard about the people in my life who deserve a world safer than the one Donald Trump proposed through his rhetoric: a gay brother, deaf parents, a half-black niece, a Muslim best friend – and me, a female journalist.
But journalists aren’t meant to have an opinion, the world tells me. So I was trying hard to remove those biases from my mind when an editor spoke across the newsroom and reminded me of the highest fundamental of journalism: the truth.
If someone is lying, they are a liar. Say it. A bigot is a bigot and a fraud is a fraud. We should not tiptoe around the truth for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. We are not publicists. We are the truth seekers. The ones who tell it how it is and expect to be hated for it all the same.
Journalists across the country fought long and hard against Donald Trump. Not because of our own personal feelings, but because he sought – and seeks – to persecute the very institution we stand for. By calling us pigs and cheats. By discrediting the freedom of the press and creating an embargo on access, saying only those who play nice can come in.
Well, when the truth isn’t nice, neither are we.
The journalism I know is a relentless one. One that chases after a single story only to reveal decades of institutional abuse. One that exposes the origin of unpopular wars and forces court orders to overturn restrictions on the press. And, one that reveals when a presidential candidate roots himself in racist, sexist and xenophobic speech.
I came into journalism eager, inspired to be a part of that coalition. And Wednesday, that spirit is what kept me going.
I am inspired by editors who stayed past press time until the wee hours of Wednesday morning, reworking our coverage until we could provide readers with an up-to-date front page that reflected the results of a tumultuous 24 hours.
I am inspired by journalists across the country who believe now is the time for us to be more relentless than ever. Who are shining a light on the unsatisfied and the scared and who are sticking together for support and comfort when that light is rewarded with hatred and death threats.
And, I am inspired by the reporters to my left and right in the small newsroom of The Sun Chronicle who reminded me that when the world seems to stop, we are the ones that keep going – covering the aftermath of Election Day, high school renovations, the past of a veteran and a litany of others on our agenda of never-ending stories waiting for our hand.
And so today, I’ll grab my notebook and a pen, make some calls, and keep writing. Donald Trump may be my president, but I also have a job to do.