Farr finds renewed fervor at Logan Symposium

The Center for Public Interest Journalism sponsored five Philadelphia-area journalists who attended the 2014 Logan Investigative Reporting Symposium convened at U.C. Berkeley. Stephanie Farr of the of the Philadelphia Daily News shares her experience:

A reporter who shields his face at all times when not working, even to his own peers. A journalist who fears for her life so much she’s hired bodyguards. And freelancers living in foreign countries who don’t know where their next paycheck is coming from, but wouldn’t have it any other way.

I believed I was passionate about my profession until I attended the Logan Investigative Reporting Symposium in Berkeley, Calif., and was promptly put in my place by reporters who lay their lives on the line to tell stories they believe nobody else would otherwise tell.

If, as “Frontline” executive producer David Fanning told us, “Journalism is an extraordinary adventure,” these were the tour guides.

Anas Aremeyaw Anas, an undercover investigative journalist in Ghana, appeared at his panel wearing a hat and a black cloth covering his face. He’s risked his life to expose human trafficking, troubled orphanages and the slaughter of albinos throughout the African continent.
“I have three goals of journalism: Naming, shaming and jailing,” he said.

Mexican reporter Anabel Hernandez, who was inspired to pursue investigative journalism after her father was murdered and the local authorities refused to investigate his case without a bribe, said she thought journalism was “about ensuring we progress as a society.” But progress is slow in her country, where 74 journalists have been killed since 1994, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Hernandez, a mother of two, employs bodyguards at all times just to be able to do her job and live her life. I wondered why she would put herself and her family in such danger until it became clear – through her passion, her words and her presence – that she had no choice. She does this for her dead father, she does this for her children’s future and she does this so she can sleep at night.

“I have seen good journalists change the story,” she said. “Maybe one day, my little job can make a difference.”

The other reporters who inspired me with their unbridled passion were a panel of freelance journalists which included Erin McIntyre, who has stationed herself in Tijuana, Mexico, and Annie Murphy, who is also based in South America.

They spoke of not having the village of a newsroom to back them, or even a lawyer. Murphy described freelancing as “being in a bad relationship,” where your partner doesn’t treat you well and you’re always waiting for them to call – but it’s a bad relationship you’re in charge of and you get to pick the topics for which you fight.

Although I would have liked to have walked away from the symposium with more tangible tools to help me identify and tell the stories worth writing here in Philadelphia, perhaps what I did walk away with was equally as important: A renewed fervor to be passionate about my charge as a journalist to expose wrongs, to tell the stories that otherwise wouldn’t be told and to risk whatever it takes to do the right thing.

Investigative Reporting Program

Video: Sessions from “Under Attack: Reporters and Their Sources,” at the 8th Annual Reva & David Logan Investigative Reporting Symposium, held April 25–27, 2014 at U.C. Berkeley.

The 2014 CPIJ conference sponsorship program is no longer accepting applications. However, you can still apply for topical conference support.

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