On Tuesday, October 28th, my FIG class had the privilege of attending the 2014 Missouri Honor Medal Banquet. To be honest, I wasn’t really that psyched initially about attending it. Basically, I knew that the purpose of the banquet was to honor seven notable journalists and publications. I knew the award-winning Guardian would be honored, which made me think, okay, this might be kind of a big deal. Maybe it’ll be interesting.
Sometimes in difficult moments of (probably typical) college major-related existential crises, often in the midst of stress related to setting up an interview or writing a story, I wonder if journalism is really the thing I should be pursuing. I think to myself, if I’m really so passionate about this subject, why am I getting so little enjoyment out of practicing it? These thoughts, though fleeting, nevertheless became a reoccurrence throughout this past semester. However, at the banquet, I was able to see what I could do; what my efforts as a journalist could possibly become. I can’t recall another moment in my life where I’ve experienced quite what I did on that evening a little over a month ago.
First of all, I was kind of starstruck just from being in the mere presence of such distinguished honorees. One medal winner was Audie Cornish, co-host of NPR’s long-running, award-winning show All Things Considered, which I’d listened to non-stop every time I was in the car with my aunt while visiting Seattle this summer (my official introduction to NPR). Audie’s voice, and her show, are iconic. At the reception that preceded the banquet, I tried to figure out what I would do and say if I happened to run into Audie. Instead, Mark Robinson ran into me. Features Editor at WIRED magazine, Mark was sent by the publication to collect the award. He approached a group of my friends and me and, of all things, began asking us what our motivation for being journalism majors was. I’m a fan of WIRED, and all I could think during the entire conversation was, wow, this guy is pretty high up. This is kind of a big deal.
During the actual ceremony, I was quite impressed with the accomplishments and the remarks made by all of the honorees, but I was especially struck by the acceptance speech given by two staff members from the Kyiv Post, Ukraine’s leading English-language newspaper since 1995. They spoke tearfully of reporters on the front lines and of violence throughout the country, and at the end were given a standing ovation by the entire room. Just before the two were medaled, it was announced that the newspaper was awarded “In recognition of courageous and determined professional reporting on behalf of democracy in the face of great personal risk.”
It was through these specific moments and many more that I was both inspired and empowered to work harder because I saw, literally right in front of me, seven prime examples of the great things one could do as a journalist, with an example in seemingly every medium. These individuals helped remind me why I’m in this thing. I want to learn anything and everything about the world around me; I want to help others; I want to tell stories; and, above all, I want to make an impact in people’s lives in the best way I know how: through my writing.