Saturday, February 13, 2010

Toxic Legacy: What I Learned

By Jennifer De Shields

Toxic Legacy is a pretty important story in my mind, but not just because of the good it did for the people living amid the toxic sludge. This story was one of the first environmental journalism stories I ever read. During my sophomore year I took my first news writing class with Professor Negron. We had to pick a topic to write our final story on and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Then she started talking about a reporter she knew from the Bergen Record who did a story about the land the Ramapough Indians lived on. The topic in itself was intriguing, but what really impressed me was the Toxic Legacy website. There was so much information and interactive material to take in, it was almost overwhelming. After reading the story I decided that I wanted to do my story about the Ford dumping scandal. It was the first story I ever wrote, and I got an A on it.

After writing the story I realized that issues like these really matter to me. The environment affects us all and we should all be aware of that. I always thought that I would write news, and in many ways I still will be writing news. But after reading that story I knew that reporting on environmental issues is important. I got into journalism because I believe that reporting makes a difference in people’s lives, and I’ve always wanted to make a difference in some way. I firmly believe that reporting on environmental issues will be the way that I will make a difference in this world.

The story has a little place in my heart because of my first news story, and the effect it had on me. Reading about the hardships those people have faced broke my heart. They’ve been treated like dogs since they first settled in the land centuries ago. People in the surrounding community think that they’re inbred violent people, when in reality they’re people with a rich cultural background and who have had a difficult past. It makes me sick to think how big companies can get away with endangering human lives like this. I don’t understand how somebody can justify doing what was done. How did the executives think that what they were doing is okay? When I think about it I already know the answer why. Although corporations are legally defined as people, they do not have any human qualities. Humans in general feel compassion, guilt, and empathy; businesses don’t feel anything. To them the only important thing are the profits and catering to their investors. Despite this I still believe that personal responsibility should factor in working in the business world.

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