by Edina Klutsey
8-year-old Edina was found sitting in front of the television every evening watching news. Why? Because that was the only I could spend quality time with my father without the disturbance of my siblings.
Whenever my dad came home from work, he would watch the news for an hour before dinner. My siblings and I were finished with our homework and had some playtime before we ate. Instead of playing with my siblings, I would go to the living room, snuggle beside my dad and watch the news with him. I never truly understood what was going on, but boy, did I have a question for every news story I saw! I remember watching different news networks – CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, and CBS News. My father definitely had a lot of patience with me because I was a talker when I was younger. (Well, I still am now.) He always managed to answer every question I had. Some of the questions were silly. What kind of name is Soledad O’Brien? Why didn’t the anchors ever wear regular clothes? Other times, I asked what a specific word meant when I didn’t understand what the anchor or reporter was saying. I often asked where a certain city or country was on the map when someone mentioned it on the television. I grew more and more curious as each segment went on.
As I continued to spend time with my dad watching the news every evening, I began to have a deep interest for media literacy and how the news anchors and reporters were covering the news. It started out as me being eager to spend quality time with my father. Then, I became eager to learn about what happened in the world that day. Within a few months, I found myself watching the news in the morning as well. I noticed a difference between the morning news and the evening news. In the morning, the anchors always recapped breaking news from the evening before. There was always a weather and traffic segment. Reporters would tell stories related to school, health, or morning time. I was always the first one to finish getting ready so I could watch the news. My mom started asking me about the weather each day because she knew I would know.
My dad noticed how interested I was in the news and current events. Whenever family members came to visit, instead of telling me to go play with my siblings, he’d let me sit with them during their talks. I learned a lot about the way my dad interacted with adults when it came to watching/talking about the news. When it was just the two of us, I was always asking questions and trying to understand what I was watching. When he talked to my uncles and aunties, they always expressed how they felt about what was going on in the world. I never asked them any questions, I remembered just listening to them. I was always wondering about what caused them to come to the conclusion they voiced. Because they were so into their conversations, I don’t think they ever noticed I was there. Even when I would slip out, no one stopped talking. I’m glad I was able to sit in. When I would watch the news after those conversations, I would try to see things from my family’s perspective.
By the time I was 11 years old, I told myself I was going to be a news journalist when I grew up. Because I had that set in my heart, I was discontent with the public school I was attending at the time. So like any typical 11 year old (not really), I went to my older sister’s room, grabbed her high school directory and began searching for schools that had a journalism program. I wanted to be prepared when it came time to apply for high school. As I was searching, I found World Journalism Preparatory School. Turns out, it was a middle school, too. Every single day, I bugged my parents about visiting the school because I wanted to go there. However, my parents wanted me to wait until high school. I was in the 7th grade at the time, and I had just one more year before I graduate. Of course, determined little Edina (still am) didn’t take “no” for an answer. After days of constantly asking them, they finally took me to visit the school. I instantly fell in love. I wanted to transfer that same day, but my parents insisted I finish the school year.
For the next 6 months, I learned everything I could about journalism and the news. I started watching the news for longer times in the morning before school and in the evening with my dad. I started asking my dad more specific questions. How do these reporters gather their facts? Why do they open up their stories in this particular way? What is breaking news? How does that differ from regular news? If my dad could not give me an answer, I knew that my teachers at my new school would be able to because that was their expertise.
My first day of school was exciting. I was finally where I’d been dreaming about the past 6 months. I quickly became the center of attention. Not only because I was the new kid, but also because I was one of three African-American students in my entire grade. I had a journalism class in the morning where my teacher, Ms. Robinson, taught us the history of journalism, the different forms from television, radio, magazine, and newspaper, and how we could become journalists who accurately report news stories. I had an advantage being one of three black students in the class because I came from a different neighborhood than the kids I went to school with. I saw news media from a different perspective than they because the stories from my local news channel were completely different from what the kids at my school watched. My neighborhood had a high percentage of African-American people and their needs were a bit different from the ones of the kids I went to school with.
Seeing the difference in what was important to people in my neighborhood and the kids I went to school with shaped me to view the news in a more comprehensive way. Not only did I have my dad’s perspective in mind as well as my uncles and aunties, I now had the kids who were of a different race than me in my mind as well. It made me realize how important media literacy was. Everyone will always process the news differently because of their own experiences and how they grew up.
The way I view media now has changed a lot since I was 11. I don’t sit in the living room to watch my news, I barely watch TV as a matter of fact. The hours that were once dedicated in front of the TV screen have transferred to my phone screen. The way I get my media is through the news app on my phone and reading different articles from various places ranging from The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, BBC News and CNN to name a few. Because I don’t have a social media platform (I chose to get off social media for personal reasons) to voice my opinions, I usually end up talking to my dad (of course), my siblings and extended family members, friends and most times strangers who are interested in the news who I end up striking conversations with.
My passion for news started with me wanting to spend time with my dad. Then it sparked a curiosity in wanting to know why and how media cover the world, and now I still ask those questions. Media and media literacy continue to have a huge impact in my life because I am surrounded by it daily. Whether it’s at home seeing my dad watch his evening news every day, or at school taking media literacy classes, I choose to let it continue to impact and shape me. It has been a part of me since I was 8 years old, and I believe it will continue to be even at 80 years old.