Photo courtesy of KXMB-TV

An alumna’s account from the frontlines at Standing Rock

If you would have told me six months ago that I would be a reporter in the middle of a high-profile national news story, I would have called you crazy.

My footage and interviews have made it on CBS national news. I’ve interviewed Shailene Woodley, Mark Ruffalo, Joan Baez and the Reverend Jesse Jackson. While it’s incredible that I have been given this opportunity, the job hasn’t been easy. Reporting isn’t easy.

The national news story to which I’m referring is one you’ve surely seen all over social media: the controversial topic of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in North Dakota. I work for KX News, the CBS affiliate in Bismarck, which is the closest news market to the protests at a little over an hour away. Many of the protests have also made it into town because Bismarck is the capital of North Dakota.

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The conflicts are not an easy topic to cover. So much information is being thrown at me by both sides, and my job is to decipher the facts and decide how to cover them.

I graduated from UTSA this year, and this is my first reporting job.

I have been forced to put on my big-girl pants and do my job right. I have learned so much about being a great reporter over the last two months, and I wouldn’t change my situation for the world. It’s stressful and scary at times, but the experience I’m getting is what many reporters won’t see in a lifetime.

Believe it or not, one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned about being a reporter is to remain unbiased. I have to be unbiased, not only in my reporting, but also in my everyday life. I see a lot, and trust me, I have a lot of opinions on the DAPL, but I am forced to practice self-control and refrain from commenting and sharing that opinion at all times. And with unbiased reporting, I have to share both sides of the story—the protesters versus law enforcement. People are furious with me on both sides. I know I’m doing my job right when everyone is mad at me about something, as crazy as that idea sounds.

Nasty social media comments or phone calls are not the only problems. I have been yelled at and called a liar in person on multiple occasions. I have to use more of that self-control and take whatever people dish out to me. During these confrontations between protesters and law enforcement, things can get out of hand quickly.

I want to get the closest, most detailed footage during protests. I want to be right in the middle of everything, so I can accurately report on what’s happening.

Some of the confrontations aren’t friendly, though. Toxic smoke from burning tires is everywhere, police are pepper spraying and shooting rubber bullets—and I’m right there.

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I have had to learn to take care of myself first and do my job second. I’m not invincible just because I’m neutral. It’s all very real, and it’s all very scary. I would have never imagined that I would be in this position as a first-year reporter.

In two short months, I have met some incredible people and have made memories that will last a lifetime. I can’t wait to see where my career takes me, and I can’t thank UTSA enough for setting me up for success.

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