By Sofi Zeman, MUTV-23 News reporter

In the words of Adam Kealoha Causey: “Every journalist in the world is having a busy year.”

In 2020, our interpretation of the everyday news cycle has evolved into coverage of COVID-19 outbreaks across the globe, demonstrations against police brutality, natural disasters and among the most tumultuous presidential elections in history. 

News organizations — from local to global — have worked to keep up with the ever-changing influx of information, all the while facing COVID-19-related restrictions.

Despite odd times and worldwide stressors, AP News Editor for Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, Adam Causey sat down for an interview with MUTV 23News to discuss local news, 2020 coverage and all things “journalism.”


Inside the job

Causey oversees the planning, editing and reporting of AP stories across the states Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. However, Causey’s work isn’t limited solely to the region he represents. The Associated Press has hubs across the country, and part of the job has to do with communicating and collaborating with these locations when needed. 

Collaboration between locations is imperative when working on major stories. This summer, AP News staff located in Texas aided in the coverage of the Minneapolis protests without being in Minneapolis at the time.

“Just this year when we were first seeing really big protests in the Minneapolis area, reporters in Texas helped out with either writing, taking feeds from the field to write or making calls from down in Texas,” Causey said. 


Reporting in a pandemic 

Much like millions of Americans in the workforce, Causey spent his summer working from home due to COVID-19 and continues to do so. AP handles a great deal of its intercommunication over the phone, so the shift to a solely technological environment did not keep Causey’s region from producing news. 

Major events this summer, such as George Floyd’s funeral in the Houston area and Trump’s mid-pandemic Oklahoma rally, prompted news coverage in areas with high volumes of people. To ensure reporter safety in the field, the AP supplies their staff with protective equipment such as a proper mask, sanitizer and cleaning supplies. 

Two of the more notable stories produced in the Texas region involved on-site reporting in COVID-19 hospital wards in Houston and the Rio Grande Valley. In a time where Texas was seeing the worst of COVID-19, AP reporters ventured out to these locations to get a closer look on the impacts of the pandemic. 

“Being able to get so close to the medical personnel who were working to save lives; to talk to patients; to talk to families of people who had gotten sick or died; had a huge impact,” Causey said. 

Though similar in concept, Causey noted that the two stories were covered in very different areas. Houston is a major city, home to many hospitals available for the public. The Rio Grande Valley differs in this sense, and some patients were having to be flown to Oklahoma City due to overflowing bed capacity in hospitals. 

“We had some really heart wrenching stories about how people had gotten infected through family gatherings, or people who don’t have the luxury of being able to be distant because they live in a home with multiple generations of their family,” Causey said. He later emphasized the importance of the AP’s on-site reporting, calling it a way to get inside a situation that few actually understand. 


The value of local news

Like successful journalists before him, Causey began his career reporting at the local level. Causey worked for newspapers in Louisiana, Florida and Nevada before moving on to the Associated Press. He began his career reporting police activity and later moved on to local government coverage. Despite working for a global organization, Causey still stresses the importance of local news. 

“Local journalism is still extremely important. It’s a tough time for the industry. It may be hard to find jobs but we need local journalism badly in this country and everywhere. If journalists aren’t watching what’s going on at City Hall, there may not be anyone there. It’s really important to show impact and find a voice for those being affected,” Causey said.


Advice for aspiring journalists

There is hope for the future of journalism. For those wishing to move on in this field, here are some words of advice from Causey: 

  1. Ask questions.

When reporting in a new town, take advantage of having a fresh set of eyes on how things are in that location. Use this new perspective to tell a story and question everything. 

“Be curious. That’s one of the most important qualities for journalists is to be curious about the world. Ask why things are the way they are.”

  1. Networking is key.

Causey recommends getting familiar with the community and those in it. This is a surefire way to “become the master of your beat.” Engage in Zoom calls, make connections and keep in touch with those who may be able to help out in the future.

  1. Learn how to use multimedia elements.

People consume news on a variety of platforms. Depending on the story, it may be beneficial to use a different medium to deliver information. Learn how to transform news using video, audio, social media or photo instead of writing. 

With this in mind, it’s vital to be mindful of social media presence and to avoid the spread of misinformation. 

“We always tell our staff to be careful what you post online, especially if it’s in an election season,” Causey said.

  1. Give a voice to those who need it. 

Causey discussed that a serious issue in the media is that we often only hear the voices of those in power. Rather than writing a basic report on government affairs, keep in mind who is being impacted by them. 

“In a really solid news story, regardless of the topic or the field, I always look for impact and voices of the people who are affected by it. In journalism, we are always looking to hold the powerful accountable and fight against injustice. When you’re covering the government, it can become really easy to only hear the voices of those in power, so it’s important to share the voices of those who aren’t.” said Causey.

Edited by Rachel Henderson

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