Cullor: Good journalism is a practice in kindness

Ravyn Cullor

Editor’s Note: Traditionally, graduating seniors working at The Collegian are given the chance to write a farewell note at the end of their tenure at CSU.

Dear Collegian reader,

Ad

My very first day working at The Collegian, a man at a political event somewhat aggressively questioned my ability to cover the speaker on the grounds of the existence (or lack thereof) of objectivity. After 2 1/2 years and more than 100 articles, I have a complete answer.

Being a journalist for the Colorado State University campus has been the thing I’m most proud of so far in my life, and that’s because it has fulfilled me in so many ways. I’ve met so many interesting people, witnessed so many events I wouldn’t have otherwise and developed my professional skills greatly. 

Becoming an objective journalist is becoming a journalist who recognizes and respects the humanity in their subjects.” -Ravyn Cullor, 2019-20 news director, The Rocky Mountain Collegian

But more near and dear to my heart, I have gotten to see how it affects people when you capture their experiences on campus in an article. I’ve had the joy of letting people tell their own stories when they feel the narrative around them is being created by others. For a year, I covered the student veterans and adult learners, and getting to learn about a community so intimately that many traditional students might not think about being on campus was so formative.

As a portion of my higher education, my time at The Collegian has most importantly taught me a lot. Not only has it taught me to be better at the base skills behind what I do, but I’ve learned about how I as a journalist ought to handle covering a world so complex none of us will ever truly understand all of it. 

I have had the opportunity to meet people who are so inspiringly passionate about a topic, and I truly respect how someone can give their life over to something they love deeply. I have seen people fight for themselves and others, which is incredibly brave. I won’t lie, there were a few times I was brought to the verge of tears by people’s powerful words.  

Within the company, I developed some of the greatest friends and have seen some wonderful people grow alongside me. I have also had to fight for what I believe in as a journalist, and while it was hard and often wore me out, the opportunity to fight for ethics and fair journalism has made me a stronger reporter and person. 

Staff of 2019-2020 Rocky Mountain Collegian pose for a photo in the newsroom during a digital production night Jan. 28. (Matt Tackett | The Collegian)

As the news director, I learned a lot about being a female leader. I learned sometimes, as a woman who isn’t afraid to stand your ground, some people will treat you differently than your male counterparts. But I also learned having the right people at your side, like our wonderful editor in chief and managing editor, can make that experience far less lonely.

I’ve learned there are some things I want to change in our industry. Journalism is traditionally very competitive, but in a modern era where an institution of our democracy so important it’s in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights is losing its traditional funding sources, we need to work together. To make journalism stronger and more impactful instead of shallow and meaningless, we have to help each other when the work gets hard and have each other’s backs when we don’t know what to do.

Most importantly, though, I learned what objectivity truly means. People often ask you as a journalist if objectivity in your work can really be achieved because everyone has an opinion in life. Particularly among some young journalists, I’ve noticed, some people in the profession even question the validity of the quality.

I think this stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of what objectivity is. At first blow, it seems like the practice of having no opinion on any topic at all. But I’ve discovered it’s much more complicated. Rather, objectivity is knowing that just because your experiences have grown you to perceive the world one way doesn’t make the way anyone else perceives the world less true or real to them.

Ad

Sympathy is the idea that you can believe someone else’s experiences even if you can’t understand them yourself. So, in part, objectivity is a practice in being sympathetic toward everyone, even when their beliefs go directly against what you believe.

Additionally, objectivity is accepting the world as a spectrum of grays instead of black and white. I think this is very difficult because that means sometimes you have to accept that you are in the wrong for someone even if you feel you’re in the right for yourself. 

That’s hard because we want to feel like we are the protagonist, but instead, when we accept that we too live in a world of grays, we get to understand that, like us, most people are just doing their honest best to get through life. Even in moments where protesters were screaming hateful words in my face, objectivity reminded me that I had to try and understand who I am in their eyes.

people pose for photo on oval
News Director Ravyn Cullor and News Editor Matt Bailey pose for a photo Oct. 17, 2019. (Matt Tackett | The Collegian)

So really, becoming an objective journalist is becoming a journalist who recognizes and respects the humanity in their subjects. As a journalist, I’ve learned it isn’t my role to make a judgment on anyone, but it’s my job to give others the information they need to make the best judgment for themselves, and that doesn’t require personal opinion at all. 

Truly, from the bottom of my heart, I am so grateful for the experience I’ve had here. As a first-generation student, I knew studying to become a journalist was going to be risky. But I believe in doing something that means something to you, and being able to impact so many people with my work has been beyond my wildest dreams.

Every step of the rest of my life will be formed by the experience I’ve had at The Collegian, and I hope to see many others follow in my path. 

Thank you all for the opportunity,

Ravyn Cullor

Outgoing news director, The Rocky Mountain Collegian

Ravyn Cullor was formerly the news director of The Rocky Mountain Collegian. She can no longer be reached at news@collegian.com but can be reached on Twitter @RCullor99.