Earlier this week, I had the chance to attend Alpha Phi Alpha’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Brunch, where we heard from Basheer Jones, a Cleveland city councilman and grassroots activist.
During his rousing, inspiring keynote speech, Jones talked of taking action — of serving one’s community and standing up for what is right.
The topic of service has been weighing heavily on my mind recently.
I was lucky to attend a high school that preached service above all else. Some of my fondest memories were spent in the hills and hollows of eastern Kentucky, where my classmates and I helped to build homes, assist the elderly and care for damaged swaths of Appalachian land.
We listened as local residents told stories of a region plagued by injustice and inequality. We took a special “capstone” class on social justice during our senior year. We learned when to raise our voices and when to take a step back and listen.
Service was a tangible thing — a goal measured by hours spent in a soup kitchen, protest signs made, or bricks laid in the foundation of a new house.
When I first made the decision to enter the journalism field, I feared that those views on service were going to be compromised. When I left for college and joined The Post, I was quickly greeted with a new set of rules about public and political participation.
The Post, like most news organizations, is fairly strict in that way. Our journalists aren’t allowed to take part in protests or demonstrations, whether on or off campus. We have rules about everything from posting political opinions online to participation in certain student organizations and signing petitions.
Those rules, however, don’t exist without reason. They’re in place so that our journalists can cover their community without appearing biased on the issues they report on.
As time has gone on, I’ve realized that journalism is a service in its own right — that you need good, solid reporting in order to expose injustices and give light to the issues impacting your community. Sure, you may not see a story about a county commissioners meeting or a report about a traffic accident and immediately think of it as a public service.
But the way I see it, the very act of informing those around you, giving a voice to the underrepresented and oppressed and holding the powerful accountable is a service to all.