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Indy at 15: Learning to Think Like a Journalist

Jaisal Noor Oct 8

I worked as a production assistant at Democracy Now! after I graduated college in 2007. Being in that environment gave me ideas for all kinds of stories I wanted to tell but didn’t know how to. Some people at DN! asked me if I had heard of The Indypendent and told me it was a place where I could volunteer, be involved in the news process and do on-the-ground reporting. 

Attending the Indy’s editorial meetings was valuable for me as a young journalist. Listening to experienced people discuss and debate the issues of the day — such as whether Obama was actually going to be a heroic force for change — helped me think about how to gauge a breaking story, what the progressive response can be and how to put events in historical context.

Every young journalist wants to find an under-reported story they can jump on and make their contribution with. For me it was Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attack on New York City’s public schools. The Indy had been doing critical coverage of this issue for years, as had Democracy Now! and Juan González of the New York Daily News. But that was about it, and on many of the big issues — the spread of privately-managed charter schools, the expansion of standardized testing, the de facto segregation of the city’s schools and demands for greater community control — there were still many stories to be told.

At that time I had a position with the New-York Historical Society teaching a history class at various schools. One day I would teach at a school on the Upper West Side, in one of the wealthiest zip codes in the country. The next day I would be a half-mile away at a school in Harlem, where the kids lived in crumbling New York City Housing Authority buildings and there were two charter schools moving into the public school and taking over the gym and the art rooms. I could see firsthand the impact of Bloomberg’s policies. Conversations I had with teachers further deepened my understanding of what was happening. 

My coverage for the Indy of the impact of Bloomberg’s school closings led to my first video reports for The Real News Network, where I got my foot in the door. The connections I made covering public education in New York made it easier for me to hit the ground running when I covered protests in Chicago against school closings orchestrated by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the 2012 Chicago teachers strike. 

I moved to Baltimore a couple of years ago to work full time for Real News. We post four to five stories a day that are disseminated via social media and YouTube. We will be going to a daily national newscast later this fall. In the past year, I’ve reported from Ferguson and Greece, as well as on the uprising against police violence here in Baltimore. As a senior producer, I review everything that goes up on the website and write the headlines, a skill I spent many hours honing at the Indy. My prior experience at the Indy and elsewhere also enriches the contributions I make at our staff’s editorial meetings, where we discuss what stories to go forward with and the angles we want to develop. Once you have learned the basics of good journalism, those skills can be used over and over again in many different situations.


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