The best reason to get into journalism

The back entrance to Southwood Mobile Home Park. John Robinson photo. The back entrance to Southwood Mobile Home Park. John Robinson photo.

There’s a direct connection between the cover story I wrote last week about immigration policy’s affect on the local Latino community and Laura Ingles’ story this week, which looks at Habitat for Humanity’s plan to redevelop trailer parks. It’s no secret that Southwood Mobile Home Park is home to immigrant families and that many of them are undocumented.

Habitat bought Southwood in 2007 with the idea of redeveloping it, part of a broader plan aimed at alleviating the area’s affordable housing crisis through mixed income models that adhere to the Places29 master plan’s high density standards in the designated growth area. Southwood sits between The Covenant School and what is to become Biscuit Run State Park, a highly desirable location, but for decades it’s been a refuge for what these days people call “the working poor.” Habitat bought it because its leaders recognized that the land would likely end up in the hands of a developer, displacing families and pushing the housing stock farther into the county. Two problems then—affordable housing for working people and a community that lives and works under the table—intersect in one place, where a nonprofit is tasked with finding concrete solutions to endemic social issues.

You get into journalism for altruistic reasons: the desire to speak truth to power, the urge to live by your wits, the call to catalyze change. But the profession and the industry, which each have their demands, can turn you cynical. Readers, for instance, will typically gobble up the same stories they most complain about, while they’re prone to ignoring stories a reporter feels are most important. In government, the squeakiest wheels too often get the oil, even when it’s scarce. Public figures rarely say what they mean, and private people never say anything, unless they’re after something. No one ever really knows what they are talking about, precisely, except lawyers, and they make everything so intricate you can hardly write about it. The truth, your greatest motivation, proves frustratingly elusive. Then there’s the never-ending deadlines… and the pay.

But all of that is just clouds in front of the sun. Another connection between the stories I mentioned above is the one between two writers who care about a subject and want to dig into it. In this profession, that’s always where you find the people who inspire you to love what you do, which is really just to ask questions and write down the answers.—Giles Morris