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Thank a Journalist Day to spark a discussion about local journalism

By Eddie Metzger

When I was young, I remember crawling around newsroom floors, crumpling wads of paper and tossing them over the cubicle walls of hard-working journalists. I didn’t know then what they were doing or why they were doing it. All I knew was these were good people and they cared about me. They took the time to learn who I was and what made me laugh. Of course, my mom was the editor, so maybe they felt inclined to laugh on behalf of keeping their jobs … but I like to think otherwise.

As I grew older, my interest in journalism and storytelling developed more. In high school, I helped run my student media publication, built a news website and created videos about the students I knew. By the time I arrived at college, I realized one of the most important stories to tell was about the journalists themselves.

Journalism is threatened. A recent Gallup poll suggests that countries across all regions are experiencing declining media freedoms. The respect we have for journalists and their contributions to society have drastically fallen and the opinions about news media in the United States are deeply divided across partisan lines. People don’t trust the media.

When we think of journalists we think of the international foreign policy reporters, the national broadcast journalists, or the divisive radical media outlets that spout opinions we don’t agree with. But journalism is so much more.

Journalists tell the stories of our hometown heroes. They inform us about the routine like local weather alerts, what’s happened at the school board meeting and neighborhood crime. They report on events happening across the street that we didn’t know existed and are integral to any functioning society, no matter its size. These invisible societal watchdogs hold our towns together with little to no recognition.

One way to spark a discussion about the importance of journalism is to thank journalists themselves. But how do I do that?

In 2019, a group of advertising and public relations students (including myself) worked together to create an action-oriented social media and digital campaign centered around the idea of thanking journalists. We call it: Thank a Journalist Day.

Before anything, we got to work on drafting a proposal for the governor’s office in Indianapolis to declare “Thank a Journalist Day,” as an official event throughout the state of Indiana. We were ecstatic when “Thank a Journalist Day” was declared and signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb to take place on March 13, 2019.

We evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of the campaign, and developed messaging and creative concepts, finally decided on the advertising and public relations channels we wanted to use. We thought about who we were targeting and the action they would take to participate.

Now, we invite you to join us in thanking a journalist. Use your own social media channels. Post a video about why you think journalism is important, tag any media outlets you want to thank, and challenge your friends to do the same. Use the hashtag “#thankajournalist” now to show your support.

Eddie Metzger is a senior studying advertising at Ball State University’s Department of Journalism. He expects to graduate in May and attend graduate school in Ball State’s Center for Information and Communication Sciences. This column is among a series of reflections to pay tribute to the Department of Journalism’s 50th anniversary. It is published during Sunshine Week, which is an annual recognition and bipartisan effort to raise awareness about open government.