Many university students today weren’t born when 9/11 happened 20 years ago. That’s hard to fathom because the sad day is so stamped in the minds of those who experienced it.
It’s also a reminder of how we all view even historic events through differing lenses. Our reporting fellows at the Fort Worth Report bring this fresh perspective to many issues we examine.
This fall, we have three fellows working with us: Sederick Oliver and Lonyae Coulter, both juniors at TCU; and Cecilia Lenzen, a senior at the University of Texas at Arlington. All bring terrific energy, talent and insight to their work.
All have impressive resumes. Among their many accomplishments: Oliver was valedictorian of his class at Carter High School in Dallas; Coulter received the Williams Randolph Hearst Endowed Scholarship in Journalism; Lenzen was editor-in-chief of the award-winning Shorthorn student newspaper at UTA.
We emphasize having a year-round fellowship program because these students improve our local journalism. For example, they are digital natives, providing insights and experiences with online and social media that help older journalists understand how to better connect with the audiences there.
At the same time, we consider it part of our public service mission to help train the next generation about nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. It’s more critical than ever that we build an audience — of all ages — that trusts the local reporting we do.
The 20th anniversary of 9/11 reminds me of how important this trust can be particularly during times of crisis. In 2001, I was volunteering to read at our daughter’s elementary school when the whispers grew louder about what had happened at the Twin Towers. As soon as my shift ended, I rushed to the newspaper office and worked with the staff to produce an extra edition.
We packed the print edition with local stories and photos about what was happening in our schools, churches, fire stations and more. Later that day, as we started on the next morning’s edition, a woman called to thank us for the extra edition.
She said she had helplessly watched the national TV coverage all day, feeling more despondent with each image she saw. Our local coverage, though, filled her with hope because she saw how her neighbors were responding with determination and support for their community.
Because of our local coverage, she said, she knew we’d be OK as a nation.
A lot has changed in 20 years — we have divided sharply into political camps and shout at each other through social media. Somehow, we have to find our way back to remembering that we’re all neighbors, inextricably connected to each other.
Local journalism is the way we’re trying to do that at the Fort Worth Report. Our three fellows — and your support — give us hope that we’re on the right path.
Chris Cobler is the CEO and publisher of the Fort Worth Report. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also encourages readers to stop by the Report’s offices at Trinity Coffeehouse, 2700 Weisenberger St., to share their views with him and the staff.