Journalist Lyndy Berryhill didn’t plan on a career in small-town journalism when she graduated from college in 2017, but the editor of the Stone County Enterprise in Wiggins, Mississippi is glad now that she did.
Berryhill recently spoke to a group of journalism students about her work. She recounted writing a story a gun incident in local schools. She investigated claims that a student got into a classroom with a gun, while the sheriff’s report stated he was arrested prior to entering the classroom.
The fact-checking from Berryhill proved the sheriff’s report from the incident was incorrect. The student did enter a classroom with a gun in his backpack.
“That’s the way it’s supposed to work,” Ellen Meacham, a journalism professor at the University of Mississippi said. “She shines a light on it, she holds them accountable, and the people who vote for the school board show up at the school board and say, ‘Hey, fix it.’”
Small-town reporting is about showing up for the community, according to Berryhill.
In another instance, Berryhill discovered the local city council held closed sessions to provide economic development for a corporation with a poor environmental record and broke the story in her paper.
“If people had been allowed to know that when they were pledging those dollars, officials would have been able to engage with their community and get these concerns quicker,” Berryhill said.
Small-town news is vital because every news story starts local, according to Berryhill.
The students listening to her say they earned a new appreciation for the work of community journalists.
“I liked that she shared the good side of reporting in a small town and put down some of the stigmas about being a small-town reporter,” said student Anna Grace Kilpatrick.