UMAC 2017: Telling the Story That’s There
April, 10, 2017
by Melissa McGill
Keynote speaker and ABC News correspondent Kenneth Moton was raised in rural South Carolina.
“Like the kind of rural where you run around on dirt roads with no shoes. There was love and respect and definitely God in that home. It was there that I learned the power of prayer and faith,” he says.
This upbringing in the Baptist church provided a foundation for the challenging stories Kenneth has covered in his work—some of the most tragic and controversial in recent history.
The Duke Lacrosse rape case. The Caylee Anthony missing child story turned murder trial of her mother Casey Anthony. Super Storm Sandy. The Jerry Sandusky scandal. The Boston Marathon bombing. The Baltimore riots following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The shooting of five police officers at a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas.
Through meeting people in crisis and seeing more than just their tragic circumstances, through crying and praying with them, Moton found himself not only telling their stories but finding his own purpose in the process.
“It was those moments I knew I was the right person at the right time to tell these people’s stories in a way that honored the victims, gave the facts and in many cases helped to bring attention to their situation.”
In 2015, he took a leap of faith and a job at ABC in Washington, D.C., as a news correspondent. Even before his training was complete, he was sent to cover another tragic breaking story, the Emmanuel AME Church shootings in his home state of South Carolina.
“Even after years of telling people that my thoughts and prayers were with them, I struggled to cover this one,” he says. “I truly believe it was faith that got me through those days and weeks, even now. These tensions are hard. I have plenty of personal feelings. But my personal feelings don’t matter to the viewer.
“The balancing act of personal values with unbiased coverage is familiar to every journalist worth his or her salt but it’s not always easy, especially in the face of injustices in an era of divisive politics.
“I have been having a hard time with this because I don’t want history to record that I was silent. But telling their stories gives them a voice. And that’s not silence. That’s what is most important to me, remaining impartial so the focus is only on telling the story that’s there.”
Melissa McGill is assistant director of communications at Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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