Journalist Dr. Ann Jones Talks Investigative Reporting and Democracy at UMF

Investigative journalist Dr. Ann Jones was recently met with a large crowd of students, faculty, and community members in Lincoln Auditorium for her discussion on investigative reporting.

Author of the book They Were Soldiers, which details sexual abuse and homicide in the U.S. military,  Jones was introduced to the audience as “the voice for women and men in the #metoo movement, the military, and domestic violence.”

Jones briefly detailed her time in Afghanistan; she initially went to help the citizens rebuild their communities long before she began her investigative reporting within the military.

“I knew more about Afghan culture than the American soldiers,” Jones said. “It was a strange situation.”

Jones reminded the audience that wartime reporting is just one kind of investigative reporting. She then stated that the core of investigative journalism is that when someone persists on an inconsistent or incorrect narrative, it is the journalist’s job to expose its flaws, disrupt the narrative, or straight up break it.

Jones walked the audience through a brief history of democracy and explained how it and journalism walk hand in hand. Democracy is a relatively modern concept, conceived by the Athenians and meaning “rule by the people.” Dating back to the birth of the United States, “it was the citizens’ duty to participate, to allow [democracy] to survive,” Jones said. “People were free to participate in governing for the common good.”

Jones noted that the United States Constitution uses the phrase that “men are created equal,” specifically white, property owning men, excluding women of all kinds and men of color.

“Democracy must work for everyone,” Jones said in criticism of how the U.S. employs democracy.

Jones explained how several Nordic countries such as Scandinavia and Finland, mistakenly labeled as socialist, are actually utilizing capitalism fairly. People are taxed as individuals, the majority of women in the country work, and necessities such as food and medicine are more easily accessible. These are the results many Americans marched for during the Civil Rights Movement.

“I wore out many pairs of boots walking the streets of this country to make sure our voices were heard,” Jones said.

When it comes to journalism, these differences in how the U.S. government runs compared to other socialist countries have been investigated worldwide. Journalists have helped to project the voices of those marching and reported the facts on what was going on with the government. Journalists fought to preserve democracy during these times.

Jones also commented that many mainstream media reporters do not fully or truly investigate matters, which contributes to audiences being unable to distinguish real news from fake news. She noted that “so much time is spent on speculation,” which is not true reporting.

“People argue about things that just don’t matter; they spend too much time asking each other ‘what do you think?’ and they get confused and don’t know what they’re fighting about,” Jones said. “If the reporters don’t know what they’re fighting about, then neither do we.”

Jones recounted the experiences of her colleagues who were invited on news shows to discuss stories they had been reporting on. They are always asked, “what do you think will happen next?” which is not the role of the journalist.

“There is no room for opinions,” Jones said. “Journalists want to know what is really going on, not what we think is going on or what will go on.”

In closing, Jones believes that the U.S. has work to do to become a true representation of all the voices that live here.

“We’ve come a long way from Athens,” she said.

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