October 15, 2013 by Caroline Leland
Drums to light
The sound of drums takes me back to Argentina — and reminds me of the value of my chosen career path.
As many days as not, the streets below my office window in Buenos Aires would be filled with people marching and pounding drums. Whenever I’d ask someone why, I’d get a vague answer referencing a general discontent that was evident in all the major cities I visited. People were intently and actively dissatisfied with their government and their quality of life.
But I sensed an undertone of strange joy in those protests. The people of Argentina celebrate their ability to make their vexation public. That ability to send a direct message to the government isn’t a freedom they’ve had for long. It was only 30 years ago that a cruel dictatorship inflicted terrifying and heartbreaking wrongs on these same people to keep them from fighting the regime.
For that reason, Argentinians hold a deep respect for independent journalism. My casual acquaintances in Argentina would nod their heads with respect when I told them my study of periodismo — journalism — because Argentinians realize the importance of trustworthy news sources that can make public the concerns of the people. In a country where the government once kidnapped, tortured and killed random people in secret detention centers, the people are grateful for an effective symbol of public communication and government accountability.
I’m always looking for affirmation of my chosen career path, seeking evidence of societal impact to make newswriting meaningful enough to be fulfilling to me. I don’t think America will ever fall to the level of the Dirty War in Argentina, but that period of time still serves to remind me of why good journalism is so important. Quality journalism keeps a beam of light on powerful governmental processes that are simultaneously far away and directly relevant to individual citizens’ lives. Just one reason of many why I respect this field. Just one reason why I’m proud to sign emails with the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication under my name. And the drums of Argentina beat along in agreement.