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Dana Ferguson '14 outside the MN capitol building

Ethical decision-making

Covering state government and politics “is always exciting, something new every day,” for Dana Ferguson ’14, the Minnesota state government reporter for Forum News Service.

She has covered the same beat in South Dakota for the Argus Leader and in Wisconsin for the Associated Press and as an intern for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Other internships at the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the Salt Lake Tribune and two newspapers in Spain gave her a taste of other types of reporting.  

But covering the hard news of state legislatures, she said, is “really meaningful. These are the folks making pretty serious decisions about the way that we live our lives on a daily basis. I find it really fulfilling. Yeah, I got a pretty good start at DePauw,” where she was a media fellow, “and especially working at” The DePauw.

“One of the first things I learned was news judgment, and what constitutes a good story that is timely, informative and helpful to the student community on campus,” she said. She worked at The DePauw whenever she was in Greencastle, including spring and fall terms of 2013 as editor-in-chief, a spell twice as long as that of most of her counterparts.

She recalled having daily conversations with other student reporters and editors “about why we’re making decisions, what the ethics were around what we were reporting, how we could fairly and completely tell stories to our readership but without doing harm.

“We wanted to do more good than harm, but also make sure that we were getting information out there and seeking the truth and reporting it. I recall many times that we sat around as editors and reporters and talked about what the implications would be if we pursued a certain story, what adverse effects there could be and how we would justify that if our fellow students or professors or the administration came to us and wanted to have a discussion about that, or if they disagreed with what we were doing.”

Ferguson said that, as a professional reporter, she still weighs the same considerations that she did as a student reporter on a small campus, where “you really have to face the consequences of what you’re reporting and the storytelling that you’re doing. … It’s good to think about things in a very personalized context, … the way that you can affect someone, depending on how you write a story or do your reporting. …

“It was one of the best experiences I've had in my life,” she said. “We had so much fun, but we were doing really important work. It didn’t ever feel like it was work because we just loved to do it.”

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