Today’s #MediaMonday comes to us from the State Capitol, where we hear from Hank Stephenson, who spent the last five years covering the Arizona House of Representatives for the Arizona Capitol Times. Stephenson recently quit his job, and is on the prowl for his next gig. He is the recent winner of the Arizona Press Club’s prestigious Virg Hill Journalist of the Year Award, as well as the organization’s Sledgehammer Award for “exposing the truth” on the travels of some of the state’s elected officials.
He studied journalism at the University of Arizona and his career has taken him to stints at the Tucson Weekly, Inside Tucson Business, Nogales International, Green Valley News, Arizona Daily Wildcat, Capital Journal (South Dakota), Williston Herald (North Dakota), The New York Times and The Associated Press.
Hank, time to share:
Once when I was younger, I got a word of advice from a landlord that I’ve always tried to remember in my journalistic endeavors: Don’t screw people because it’s easy - screw them because they deserve it.
One of the most bizarre aspects of journalism, and one of the many reasons I love the industry, is that the best journalists are almost always troublemakers. The only thing I’ve ever been any good at is making trouble. If it weren't for journalism, I would likely be working at McDonalds, spitting in the hamburgers of powerful people (if they deserved it).
But luckily, I have a more effective way of serving up justice. I view journalism as a tool that, if used right, can expose the wicked, strike fear into the hearts of the crooked and strip the powerful and cruel of their dominion over the weak. But, as Spider Man learned, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
As a reporter, I have the ability to destroy the reputations of those I cover. Which, if you think about it, makes me among the powerful. I don’t take that power lightly. Most of what I do is investigative work, and people often end up looking very bad by the end of my articles.
And I’m very aware that my own reputation also hangs in the balance of these articles. One major wrong and I’m burned as bad as a subject of one of my investigations.
We as journalists have great responsibility to tell the truth, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. But I believe we also must take care that we do not screw people simply because it’s easy. We should screw them because they deserve it.
You can follow me on Twitter at @hankDeanLight.