Alexis Wiley learned about objectivity, balance and neutrality at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.
She’s learning more about reporting’s emotional side on the streets of Detroit.
The Fox 2 newscaster sets aside professional detachment in a heartfelt commentary, her first, at the station’s website. Wiley, 29, reflects on a Feb. 27 interview with a 13-year-old mugging victim. It got slightly more than a minute of airtime, but haunts the reporter.
I found myself thinking about the 13-year-old who was robbed while waiting for the school bus long after the story was done and the show was over. . . .
The sixth grader, whose favorite subject is math, told me that he was standing on the corner of 7 Mile and Eureka all alone, in the early morning darkness, waiting for his school bus — which he says was late, as usual.
He said a car circled twice and then a man got out. . . . He told me the strange man pulled out a gun and pointed it at him, demanding he give up his jacket, phones (yes, phones) and his brand new shoes. “When I saw the gun, I thought I’d been shot,” the 13 year old quietly said. He gave the man what he wanted and ran home; grateful the gunman chose not to pull the trigger.
Wiley — a Los Angeles native who came to Detroit in mid-2010 after jobs in Shreveport, La., and Columbus, Ohio — had what sounds like a sunnier childhood than her pint-size interviewee. “I am a true California girl at heart,” she says in her station bio. “I grew up just minutes from the Pacific Ocean and will always love it!” Seaside palm trees are atop her Facebook page.
Though she’s no modern-day Howard Beale, last week’s east-side experience leaves Wiley “sad, angry frustrated,” she tweets.
In the online highly personal essay, the West Coast transplant shares her emotions:
I felt as if the wind had been knocked out of me. No child should close their eyes and picture being murdered. I wish I could make that nightmare go away.
The unidentified victim wasn’t the first young crime victim talking into Wiley’s mic, but he pushed her past journalism’s “view from nowhere,” as j-prof Jay Rosen of New York University derisively describes ” the myth of objectivity.”
“Police are part of the solution, but in a climate where public resources are dwindling, we’ve got to find ways to help ourselves,” she comments, expanding on a wrap-up point of her commentary that takes readers past the 1:27 newscast quickie:
As I left the 13 year old’s home and got into our live truck, headed to the next story, the woman next door yelled: “You should report that we’re angry and this has got to stop!”
I hope she is angry. I hope she’s angry enough to wake up tomorrow morning and walk a group of kids to the bus stop and wait with them until they safely board.
Maybe, she’ll be so angry she’ll convince her neighbors to do the same.
A young TV reporter with passion and a point of view, shared strongly and publicly — that certainly beats “the view from nowhere.”
A version of this post also is published at Deadline Detroit, a daily news site.