By Ayla Holloway, age 12
Kynala Phillips is a service journalism reporter who works at the Kansas City Star. In 2021, Kynala won the Milwaukee Press Club award for best hard news feature for a piece that she wrote on Black maternal health disparities in Green Bay, Wis.
Becoming a journalist can change the way you see other people and the world, Kynala explained to IndyKids. For Kynala, she really loved to write, so she tried journalism and liked it. “I also enjoyed being in the community,” explains Kynala, “getting to see folks and being forced to talk to people who maybe I’ve never met before and learn about their perspective.”
For Kynala, journalism has made her more curious about other people and how things work, and has also built up her confidence. “Now, [in my daily life] when things happen to me or around me, I am more curious about not only how they have impacted me, but how they have impacted the people I care about,” says Kynala. “I ask a lot of questions in all facets of my life now. And it is useful. [Being a journalist not only makes me] a more curious person, but also really assertive about making sure I know what’s happening.”
Service journalists focus on news that is immediately useful to communities and readers. They break down the news to help people understand how things are directly affecting them. This is referred to as “news you can use,” said Kynala. “[Service journalism] is based in community journalism,” she said, “which tries to work in partnership with readers to make sure that it is tackling every topic in a way that is also explaining how the news relates to the local community on a personal level.”
Every week in the United States we lose two local newspapers. Local news is important because it gives people information about things that are happening in their community and might impact them. “Local newspapers have stayed relevant, because local news is still very relevant! There aren’t that many outlets in any given city that are 100% dedicated to covering local news, whether that be city council or the high school ball game down the street. … We’re always thinking about how to stay relevant when there’s so much competition.”
Kynala explains that “journalism is one of the few fields where you don’t really need a certification specifically to do it.” You don’t have to study journalism to be a good journalist. If there’s something else you’re interested in, you can write about that topic, explains Kynala. “If you like environmental stuff, study environmentalism. Then, when you decide you still want to be a journalist, [you’ll have taken] classes about how the ocean works, how the Earth works, how the climate works. Then you’ll be able to make sure all the stories you write as a journalist are informed by that.”
Kynala tells us that the best part about journalism is that there’s no minimum age you have to be, you can have any level of education, and you can come from any background. “It’s really just a matter of committing to the basic [principles] of it: making sure that things are accurate, truthful, and that the information is useful to whatever audience you’re trying to serve.”