Reporting and Writing
I believe that journalism is a way to expose and improve the issues that face our communities. To improve matters, you cannot have formulaic writing that is bland and predictable, so I try to avoid it in my stories. Memorizing formulas doesn’t make you a journalist any more than knowing y=mx+b makes you a mathematician.
In September of 2019, I was driving down the street of a neighboring town and noticed some protesters outside of a pet store named Petland. With it being a smaller city, protests were not a common occurrence so whenever I returned home I got on my computer and did some research. I saw that the United States Humane Society (USHS) had just released their findings from an undercover investigation that they did at that store.
With it being the only pet store in the area that sold puppies, I knew that at least one student at PHS had to have a connection to the establishment. I pitched the story at a content meeting for Eagle Nation News and got to work. I contacted the USHS, obtained an interview and gained all of their press assets. The story was finished to meet my deadline but I lacked one crucial part of every story: multiple sources. While the story placed well in contests, it lacked dimension and multiple sides to the story.
Over a year later, I drove past that same spot, and the protesters were still there. I had heard of some news that change had been made since the investigation, but I realized it must not have been enough if they were still there. I saw this as the opportunity to tell the full story, gaining as much information, and interviewing as many people as I possibly could. In January of 2021, I spent the month on the story that I feel is the greatest reflection
of my storytelling ability. I got so much information that I couldn't possibly fit it all into a video news story so I wrote an article to accompany the video package. One of the other things I failed to include in my first story was the student's voice and multiple sides to the story. When creating the follow-up story, I found a senior student who interned at a veterinary clinic that treats the sick dogs of Petland. I believe she added a great perspective to the story because she has to deal with the actions of Petland on a daily basis. The differences in the stories that I produced within a year show my personal growth as a journalist.
Photos of "Texans Exposing Petland" by Grant Johnson.
For this story, I spoke with two victims, a lawyer, an animal rights activist, a student at Rock Hill High School, and the United States Humane Society. The article is broken up into sections to make it easy to follow and also features my photography which can be seen in the article and above. I think that I was able to fulfill my hopes of showing all sides of the story which I lacked in the first story.
THE WATCHDOGS OF PETLAND
A TRIBUTE TO COLLIN KARTCHNER
I was very hesitant to cover this story simply because people in my community and around the nation were hurting as a result of this event and I wanted to be very intentional with the words I used to describe the event. Collin Karthcher spoke to 600 students (including myself) in October 2020 at Rock Hill High School to share his message against the use of social media. Kartchner's speech at my school was the last one he ever gave because he passed away shortly after his visit to Frisco, Texas. I realized I had a unique perspective that no other journalist had and felt the responsibility to tell the story. I was the last journalist that Kartchner spoke to before his death. The most difficult part of this story was to keep my
personal feelings out of the story and focus on the community's reaction instead of my own, and I am delighted with the tribute that this story provides to the life of Collin Kartchner and the reaction it gained from the community.
THE SAME PATH
This package was originally going to be written to provide an overview of all of the aggressive coyote attacks in Frisco, TX, and explain the efforts the city made to protect the residents. I requested a public information document from the City of Frisco that included the names of the individuals who were attacked by the coyote. I reached out to four of the victims and one of them, Sherri Devore, agreed to share her story with me. I went to her house and interviewed her as she recounted the events that occurred. For this story, I wrote to a theme
referencing the path that she traveled in several parts of the story and used Devore as the central compelling character instead of just providing an overview of the events like I originally planned.
Rami Shihabi is a student that I met when covering the drill team at my school this year, and he is the first male dancer on the team. When I first approached Rami about doing a story he was very hesitant and didn't want any more publicity. His response was a result of several derogatory social media comments claiming that he shouldn't be allowed on the team. After explaining to Rami that this could be his opportunity to share his story, his answer changed to a confident "yes". This story shares how he, Mr. Rockette, high kicks gender barriers on the drill team.
Photo of Rami Shihabi by Grant Johnson.