SPJ Georgia member Sam Sachs graduated from Columbus State University in May 2017, where he wrote extensively for the school newspaper, The Saber. SPJ Georgia board member Haisten Willis interviewed Sachs for October’s membership spotlight. Willis’ questions are below, followed by Sachs’ answers (interview edited for length and clarity).
1. Why did you decide to join the Georgia chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists?
I decided to join the Georgia chapter of SPJ for connections to the real world press, as well as to simply expand my network. SPJ has a lot of great resources for both new journalists and veteran reporters, and not being involved would be a wasted opportunity.
2. You recently graduated from Columbus State University. What did you major in and what were the most valuable journalism experiences you had at CSU? What brought you to Atlanta after graduation?
I majored in English/Creative Writing and minored in English/Professional Writing. The most valuable journalistic experiences I had at CSU were delving into investigative reporting while looking into Title IX cases, and learning how to complete documents requests and do complex, lengthy interviews. The most valuable aspect of the experience though was learning what it means to do good journalism; it’s all about giving our communities the truth, no matter what, and letting them make informed decisions. Ignorance saves no one.
I came back to Atlanta partly to be closer to my family, and partly to be in an area much better for jumping into the journalistic field. Atlanta’s a huge metropolitan area with dozens of local publications and giants like the AJC side by side. I really wanted a chance to join the journalism community on a professional level and Atlanta’s my home, so it was a perfect next move when I graduated.
3. Your past work has included several aspects of higher education, including some investigative work. What has been the most interesting story you covered and what did you learn from it?
The most interesting story I covered in higher education while I was at school was a case involving a professor accused of sexual harassment. It was the story that solidified my desire to do investigative work as a career, as well as teaching me a lot of the fundamentals necessary to be a journalist in the current climate. Every fact has to be sourced, everything needs proof, and rumors without substance can kill a story.
At the end of the Title IX investigation, nobody was reporting on the story, so I took it up so that the truth would be out there and there could be some closure for the community and individuals involved. (Note: Sachs’ story can be found on pages 6-7 at this link).
4. What makes you passionate about journalism? What do you feel are your greatest strengths when it comes to digging up a great story?
I’m most passionate about journalism’s search for truth. It’s a lot like science in some ways, but at another angle. Mostly, journalism for me isn’t a hobby or a thing to just do, it’s a duty to provide critical information and objective facts for my community to learn from and use to make decisions with all of the cards on the table.
My greatest strengths when digging into a story can also be a weakness, but I can get a bit obsessed with getting everything right. I go overboard on details and then when I go to finally revise or edit, I have to cut so I don’t lose the story in the smaller bits and pieces.
5. Now that you’re here in Atlanta and a member of SPJ Georgia, what are your goals going forward as you continue in your journalism career?
My goals moving forward are to keep looking for a job as a reporter. Right now, I’m still trying to break into the field as a professional.
Sachs can be reached at email@example.com.