The landscape of media is shifting dramatically, but it will always boil down to basic tenants for award-winning journalist Rose Scott: is a story relevant, is it timely, is it authentic, and does it give light to new voices. Host of the popular midday news program “Closer Look” on Atlanta’s NPR station 90.1 FM (WABE), Rose Scott brings all of those to every episode of her beloved show.
Organized by Gina L. Martin, the newest edition of the library’s public forum series “Coffee, Conversation, and Community” brought in Scott to community updates and newsworthy stories. Scott echoed the importance of sharing stories closer to home.
“Make sure you know that your community matters,” she said. “It’s so important, now more than ever, to hear voices from different parts of the community, different parts of the state, and voices we don’t always hear.”
For Scott, she loves learning what makes each individual different, and that’s what drives her program.
“I love to talk to people. Everybody has a story,” she said. “Everybody has a seat at the ‘Closer Look’ table.”
True listening lies in not limiting who you hear from, but in engaging different viewpoints. It was what she wasn’t hearing that led Scott to shift her focus away from sports early in her career.
“I realized there were a lot of voices I was not hearing. I wasn’t hearing voices of what we call marginalized communities.”
Asked about her most impactful interviews, Scott pointed to a sit-down with a transgender teenager very early in Closer Look’s run. Rather than a rigid question and answer, they just sat and chatted. The teen talked about connecting with the comic book character Harley Quinn in a video game because in most games she had to choose a male avatar. Harley Quinn was the rare exception and a source of comfort.
“What affected me about that was when she talked about losing friends along the journey with her transition, and she talked about probably not living past a certain age because at some point she may want to check out because she didn’t have any support beyond her family,” said Scott. “I thought here’s a young person who thinks that they may not live to be past 21, and this kid is already 14, because she thinks she doesn’t fit in.”
It didn’t just affect Scott, it deeply touched many of her listeners.
“After that interview, a lot of transgender individuals reached out and wanted to know if they could reach out to this young girl,” Scott said. “She told me later I have a lot of big brothers and big sisters now.”
She shared the story of one listener who bombarded her with racial slurs in emails and phone calls for interviewing DACA recipients.
“That says a lot about that individual, not me. She wanted to know why I was interviewing Dreamers. Why shouldn’t I? Why shouldn’t they be able to tell their stories?” said Scott, adding it is not her job to decide whether or not the recipients should be in the country. “My job is to give them a voice, as well as anybody who has opposition to it.”
There are topics that can lead her to second-guess herself, but the test for doing her job right is a simple one.
“Was I fair about this segment?” she asks herself. “What’s important to me is if the listener is being served.
“My commitment is to make sure I’m giving as much information as possible that’s important for you all.”
As she judges a story by whether or not it is relevant, timely, and authentic, she urges listeners to hold themselves to a higher standard, regardless of where they seek out their news.
“You have a commitment as a news consumer to ask yourself the same questions.”
She shared the importance of finding positive influences who encourage you. She found that early in her family, especially her father who passed on his love of sports.
“I would listen to Cardinals baseball games with my dad, and he would have the TV on, but he would turn the sound down and listen to Jack Buck on the radio,” she remembered. “I grew up thinking I wanted to be on the radio like Jack Buck.”
She knew from the age of seven should wanted to be on the radio, but it wasn’t her only goal.
“I also wanted to be on the Muppet Show, but my dad said I had to pick one,” she joked.
Graduating college, Scott moved to Atlanta in 1996 and sold shirts during the Olympics till she found her break. Along the journey, she got valuable advice from newscaster Robin Roberts.
“She said the key is to surround yourself with people who are willing to help you.”
And so Scott tries to help those around her and encourages everyone in the community to do the same.
“It’s so important to have people in your life who will encourage you to do what you want to do,” she said. “If you see our youth, if you can, have a conversation with them. You never know how what you say might impact them.”
Scott’s passion in mentoring the youth extends especially to aspiring journalists.
“I just hope that younger journalists coming up will see that there’s a need for them,” she said of an era of “fake news” and a challenging presidential administration where seeking the truth is now more important than ever. “Now it’s getting fun. Don’t bail on us.”
Scott’s visit is another highlight in a schedule chock full of exciting events at the county library.
“We want you to tell your friends and tell your husband and your boyfriend and your children,” said Library Director Chris Snell. “Tell everybody because this doesn’t happen in a every library, but it happens at this library.”