Baltimore Sun features reporter John-John Williams IV interviewed Report for America corps member Tatyana Turner live on the Sun Facebook page on July 27.
Friday, June 26, 2020, was a life-changing day for me. It was just three weeks after my virtual graduation from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. I packed as much as I could into a suitcase and hopped on to an Amtrak train, traveling from my South Bronx hometown south to Baltimore. I did not know what to expect. But within hours of arriving here, I quickly fell in love with the vibrant streets, the people’s sense of wit, and the overall charm of the city. It felt like home.
I’m a new, Black female reporter at The Baltimore Sun covering Black life and culture. For the next year, I’ll be at The Sun crafting news and feature stories about people, businesses and grassroot efforts. I’ll be visiting neighborhoods of all kinds, from those that have been neglected by coverage and investment to middle-class and wealthier Black neighborhoods.
My position was made possible through The Sun and a nonprofit national service organization called Report for America which places emerging reporters into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. So far, I’ve reported on the talk Black parents must have with their children about racism, the unequal enforcement of a dress code at a Baltimore restaurant group, and the support Black businesses have garnered from customers during the civil rights protests.
When I applied to Report for America, I scanned the list of 160 newsrooms. But I had my eyes set on one - The Baltimore Sun.
The similarities between my hometown and Baltimore are striking. Both areas have been chronicled for their social and cultural richness, as well as overall economic struggles. Yet the stories of triumph, rebounding and success are still not fully reported. I want to be the person who can find those hidden gems and turn them into stories.
Highlighting the extraordinary has been my mission since the beginning of my journalism career at 16. For several years, I wrote for my local newspaper called the Norwood News, a community bi-weekly. My editor and I were in neighborhoods every week, speaking with people sitting on park benches, or shopping at corner stores, or protesting in front of a nearby housing court. Later, I created a video series called “Bronx Extraordinary.” My show featured undercovered artists, authors and community activists who helped make the borough better. The ratings may not have been that high--but the passion to seek out those voices were there. It’s the same passion I packed with me on that Friday two months ago and plan to unleash during my time here.
I’ve learned that being a journalist is about more than just reporting, it’s about being a listener and an advocate whose words can spark change. I can’t do this on my own and I’m not too prideful to ask for your help in telling the rich stories Baltimore has to offer. Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.