“You don’t work to win the prize, you work to do the story,” said Darrell Kunitomi, a public affairs associate at the Los Angeles Times.
On Monday morning, Kunitomi gave a tour of his workplace to a class of aspiring journalists taught by Los Angeles Times Senior Writer Lorraine Ali.
The prize Kunitomi was talking about is the Pulitzer Prize. He said The New York Times has more Pulitzers than the Los Angeles Times, but keep in mind Los Angeles times is a younger newspaper.
Today’s world is very competitive, and it is easy to lose sight of job purpose because of the desire to be rewarded. Being a journalist is about informing people, getting accessibility and being accessible to others.
“If you ask a hard question, we (Los Angeles Times) can take it,” Kunitomi said.
I interpreted “hard question” to mean an uncomfortable question. For journalists it is not just uncomfortable questions, but also uncomfortable places they have to face. Journalists often have to see pain and tragedy.
As Kunitomi took the tour through the halls of the newsroom adorned with pictures from reporter assignments including war and natural disaster, one photo caught my attention more than the others.
The caption says, “Inglewood Police Officer Joey Zeller kisses a toddler he led to safety with other residents of the neighborhood where a gunman shot an officer on Wednesday afternoon before launching an hours-long standoff.”
This photo was taken on Nov. 27, 2013, almost exactly one year ago.
Maybe it is because I moved to Inglewood from Chicago exactly one month ago on Wednesday, but this picture stirred up my emotions and made me think how different jobs can intersect.
I could have been there interviewing Officer Zeller or talking to one of the children in the photo. This image kept making me think about what Kunitomi said, “You don’t work to win the prize, you work to do the story.”
In the case of police officers they work to protect people, not for the reward of the hero title. A journalist is suppose to ask questions and inform the public while still being sensitive. Police are suppose to enforce laws while also still being sensitive. It is as if both jobs require forgetting what you do but still doing it. Forget you have a deadline, need certain answers or have a specific quota to meet. The person you interact with comes first.
I really like this photograph because looking at Officer Zeller kiss the baby’s forehead makes me believe he forgot he was a police officer at that moment. Maybe he is a father or just really loves kids, but in that moment he was just a compassionate person.
It was refreshing to feel this emotion from the photo, because it is common to hear a lot of negative stories about the Los Angeles Police Department.
There are both good and bad police throughout the world, but I was suddenly snapped out of my trance when Kunitomi said, “We love our police department, but if they do a bad job we are on them.”