Sadness prevails with the passing of Deb Flemming, who most recently was an editor for the Steele County Times of Blooming Prairie.
She passed suddenly on March 14, 2022 fighting a very aggressive form of cancer.
She was an exceptional journalist and always was giving her "all" to make community journalism stronger. She was a main reason the Times earned a General Excellence award from the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Better Newspaper Contest.
I applaud her contributions to the newspaper industry.
I felt I knew her well, even though I actually didn't meet her one on one until she began her duties as editor at the Steele County Times about 1½ years ago. I did see her at many Minnesota Newspaper Association conventions.
Deb was very active with the MNA on various projects.
The Open Meeting law was dear to her heart as it is to me. She filed many lawsuits against government bodies in support of the Open Meeting Law.
We were connected with a passion to uphold the public's right to know. Deb was often a MNA speaker about this First Amendment freedom, some times in the roundtable format at a MNA convention.
She worked very closely with MNA's attorney Mark Anfinson in not just supporting the existing Open Meeting laws but a desire to make the law stronger.
Something that was very personal for her was her mentoring young reporters.
Deb had a real knack for evaluating writers during the interview process and then spending considerable time coaching the new hires.
Of course, Deb loved to write herself and also was very involved in laying out the newspaper. As a freelance writer, I sent my copy to Deb and also to Rick Bussler, our publisher. Deb had a real talent of putting the newspaper pieces together.
What qualities makes a great journalist? Checking the Internet I found five qualities that makes a great journalist. Deb has them all.
They are, as listed on the Internet:
• Integrity -- To be a good journalist, you must possess a “solid ethical core" and integrity. Journalists must have their audience’s trust in order to succeed. Fairness, objectivity and honesty are three factors that need to be built into every story. It is a journalist’s duty to report accurate and reliable information to the public. If a journalist is ever put into a scenario where trust could be compromised, they should step aside. A good way to familiarize one’s self with the ethics of journalism is to read and follow the Society of Professional Journalist’s Code of Ethics.
• Courage -- A good journalist must also be courageous and bold. Part of the job is asking tough questions and digging deeper when deemed necessary. Personal feelings must be put aside in order to unleash the truth. In most cases, journalists will need to be out on the scene to get a full, unique story. This includes traveling to drastic and dangerous events to get details.
• Communication skills -- Strong communication skills are a must for a journalist. These skills are used on a regular basis to interview sources and to write in-depth stories and reports. To be a journalist, a bachelor’s degree in communication or journalism is necessary, along with some form of internship experience. A journalist must also possess skills in technical writing and source attribution, along with a high proficient in English grammar.
• Tech savviness -- Technology and social media have become a huge part of journalism and reporting today; therefore, it is important that a journalist’s possess technology skills. Journalists are expected to use social media as a tool to report in real time and to provide transparent coverage of an ongoing event. Journalists also need to know how to search the internet so that they can properly fact check and access any public records that are necessary for reporting a story. Social media also helps journalist connect with potential sources that could help build a story; therefore, knowing the ins and outs of each social media platform is necessary.
• Analytical mind -- A good journalist should also have an analytical mind that allows them to base stories on fact instead of emotion. Critical thinking skills and sound judgement are crucial when it comes to reporting. Even when there are strict deadlines, a journalist should hone these skills to report stories accurately and to verify that all information they have found is true.
Deb will be dearly missed. Proper tributes to Deb were made at a celebration of life by journalists she hired during her career. All seemed to agree that Deb was a real challenger to the system.
By beating the drum for quality journalism, Deb helped strengthen writing skills. Deb was always wanting young journalists to tell a story their own way. Deb may have been super critical of the work of young reporters, but she helped them develop a style to best tell a story.
Thank you Deb for sharing your journalistic talents through your own writing and to the writing of others.