When Kennedy McKinney joined her college newspaper, she noticed it wasn’t writing stories about the campus’ Black community.
“They were doing fundraisers and homeless care package drives and it wasn’t getting covered,” said the 20-year-old from Jacksonville, Florida.
In March 2020, that inspired her to start her own newspaper, The Paradigm Press, to highlight Florida Atlantic University’s communities of color on campus and in the South Florida area. In addition to tackling issues relevant to people of color, the paper covers sports, student life, culture and entertainment.
McKinney serves as Editor-in-Chief overseeing a staff of several writers. She not only thinks there should be more stories told about Black people in her field, but more Black storytellers.
“I definitely feel like there should be more Black people in journalism and media in general; I feel like we offer a very unique perspective to current events,” she said. “I think we’re very qualified due to our upbringing and background to speak on certain news events that are happening. I’d definitely like to see more minorities and can contribute in that way.”
The kinds of stories she and her team have tackled have been wide ranging, including one about how students on campus felt about non-Black people being part of historically Black sororities and fraternities. The paper also did a story about a FAU student who made racist comments on social media. That issue got a lot of attention because it didn’t seem as if the school was going to do anything about it, she said.
“We did a lot of investigation on what the punishment should be, what it is for students who make hate comments and I got to sit down with the dean of our school to get to the bottom of why there wasn’t any punishment for his actions,” she said. That story taught her and staff members at the paper about the school’s policy and pushed students to petition for changes.
She credits a high school journalism and English teacher for putting her on the path that she’s on.
“I worked really close with her and she taught me everything I know about journalism and inspired me to want to make it my career,” she said.
She’s never considered giving up on her career but sometimes she is discouraged when she isn’t able to tell a story in a way she wants due to roadblocks like not finding desired sources or issues an editor might have with a story. Her advice for those facing similar obstacles? Don’t give up.
“If my editors have an issue with my story, I always try to go out and find even more evidence as to why my story should be published, so I get more sources, get more facts and figures on what I’m trying to write about,” she said. “With the source issue, I always say just keep looking. I always use social media as a way to find sources, calling my friends to see if they know anybody, taking a quick break and then the next day going back to it.”
She also advises aspiring journalists to learn the basics.
“I think now that it's starting to become more or a digital field, people are starting to lose the basic skills you would need for a print paper, so I’d say to hone in on the basics to make sure your writing is the best it can be.”
She believes print journalism will continue to fizzle out into the future, where digital products and videos will reign supreme. She also sees the concept of an in-person newsroom fading away as well, a change she doesn’t welcome.
“I like the newsroom vibe and the atmosphere and as far as print, I don’t have a preference over how my stories are being published,” she said.