MADISON (WKOW) -- Most people look at me and see one thing: The News Lady.
“Aren't you the news lady?”
“Colin, that's the news lady.”
“Sorry, I watch another news lady.”
I have a real sense of pride when someone comes up to me in the grocery store and asks if I'm the “news lady.” Not because I like being recognized from television. But because maybe I helped them in some way. Maybe a story I wrote or a piece of news I reported gave them the information they needed to change their lives, help them navigate their world or bring some peace of mind that day.
Usually they just remembered some funny ad-lib with our meteorologist, we both laugh about it again and I'm on my way. In the last year, many want to tell their own story of child loss after I shared mine publicly. Or they want to commiserate about Celiac Disease because of my recent diagnosis. But most don't know my name and that's okay. After 17 years in the business, I'm just now getting better about saying, “Yes, hi, my name is Dani Maxwell.”
I've been a news journalist my entire adult life. Despite what many people think, news anchors, reporters, meteorologists, producers and other staff don't just come in and work a few “on-air” hours. You see me for two hours a day. I'm here for 10-plus and work a lot of weekends. I gobble down lunch at my desk while posting stories to our website, making phone calls to sources or searching Twitter for news. I've learned how to do everything in the newsroom from shooting video to editing to producing to managing the website. I attend meetings where we have serious discussions about how each story we do might impact various groups of people. And every other staff member does the same.
I'm not saying I deserve a medal for working. You all work hard. You all kick butt every day at your jobs. You all work overtime when asked, come home tired and have kids to take care of and dinner to cook and houses to clean and then you have to do it all again tomorrow. I mean to say that we are just like you.
In fact, that's the reason most of us got into journalism in the first place. To help you. To help us. I'm sure there are those who do it to be on television. But the vast majority of us do want to help and serve our communities and friends. We have the same questions as you. We have the same concerns as you. The same worries, hopes, joys, fears.
Last month we reported on two tragedies within days of each other in Orlando. A nightclub shooting that left 49 people dead and 53 hurt, and a little boy who was attacked and killed by an alligator. Before we went on the air I had been watching coverage of shooting survivors tell their stories and couldn't help but cry. Then came news of the alligator attack. The 2-year-old's parents desperately tried to save him. I don't know if the average viewer realized as I read that story on the air, but my co-workers noticed that I had begun to cry during it. I've never done that on the air in 17 years. I usually reserve my crying for home.... after the news day is done. But I kept thinking about how that little boy's parents must feel to have witnessed their toddler in the grips of an alligator and despite wrestling with the animal, they watched as it dragged him from them.
Well, I couldn't quite recover thinking about all that had happened that week in Orlando and I cried as I tried to get through the rest of my reads in that news block. I sniffed and breathed only when it was my co-anchor's turn to read or we had a sound bite. It was a long seven minutes.
I mention this because I want you to know we're not unfeeling robots who don't care about the people these stories affect. We care deeply about who they affect. That's why we ask the tough questions and hold accountable the people who should be protecting us. Part of our job is to protect you by arming you with information. So we start every day by asking ourselves what's important to you.
The media get blamed for many things and as the world of social media grows, we hear those accusations more and more. You may have your opinion on the matter and I have mine. Some believe we withhold stories, make up facts, favor one side or get paid to run a story. I assure that is not how it works in our newsroom or any newsroom I've worked in, for that matter. And I very much doubt that would fly at any reputable shop in the country.
So I wanted to start up my blog again to give viewers and readers an inside look at the news business. I want to show you a little more about our process in an effort to possibly change some of those perceptions about journalism. I want to show you our humanity. I want to show you our fun side. I want to show you our serious side. I want to show you what we can do for you and how we don't have an agenda.... other than to serve your best interest.
You and I may not have grown up the same way. We probably have very different opinions, experiences and paths. I don't know all the troubles you've been through. You don't know all the troubles I've been through. But we probably have some shared feelings. We want to feel safe. We want to be loved. We want to have a voice. We want to feel involved.
So, I won't always understand everyone. Or what they've been through. But I'll try. Every day. All the time. And I'll learn something about someone every day. Because I ask questions. Because I meet people. Because I care about them. About you. Even if I don't agree with you personally. Because my job isn't to give my opinion on all these issues that affect our lives. My job is to have your back through all these things that affect our lives. And I do.
If you have a question, story idea or news tip for Dani Maxwell or anyone at 27 News, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.