Justice Discovers Excitement in Community Journalism

Published 5:08 pm Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Growing up in Polk County, N.C. Leah Justice quickly learned the importance of her local newspaper.
The Tryon Daily Bulletin has been a trusted part of the community for 83 years and she relished the opportunity to work there.

“The Bulletin is great because it is a true small town newspaper,” Justice said. “One of the best things about being a journalist is the relationships and the trust that you earn with real people that live within the community. People depend on the Bulletin to know what is going on.”

Through more than a decade on the job as a reporter for the Bulletin, Justice has learned the value of seeing all sides of a story.

“Making a good journalist has as much to do with personality than being a good writer, especially in a small town. You have to be able to talk with anybody to get the facts,” she said. “A journalist has to be trustworthy and willing to go the extra mile to make sure every angle is covered.”

Those angles can take a journalist down a long road of twists and turns.

Many of Justice’s higher profile articles spanned years and required a lot of determination to gather all the facts. Justice firmly believes its up to her to make sure the community remains informed.

“We don’t have many murders in our area, but I put my heart and soul into the murder of a local businessman who was murdered trying to sell a vehicle,” she said. “I’ll never forget the relationships I made with his family covering the trial, spending days hoping and praying he would be returned unharmed or some of the pictures of his brutal murder that are forever stamped in my brain.”

There are so many interesting stories that also can only be found in a small newspaper, Justice said.

“We may write about a tax hike one day, a story about how the oldest woman in the county (at 107) who attributes her long life to working hard, loving God and dipping snuff and end the week with a town being requested a water bill refund because a resident claimed a squirrel got into the house and left the water running for days,” Justice said. “I once even helped the county sheriff’s office get a bull off the interstate.”

These are all unique stories that can only be told well by a true community journalist.