Flint, Michigan’s ABC12 reporter Damon Maloney ’08 reports on the ongoing water crisis. He talks with us about what makes local TV so important in today’s media world.
Michigan has been making national news lately with the Flint water emergency, a serious lead contamination in the city’s water supply. Columbia College Chicago Broadcast Journalism alumnus Damon Maloney ’08 reports from the site of the crisis with the ABC12 team. Maloney joined the television station in 2014, where he now works as a weekend morning co-anchor and reports from the field during the week. He talked with us about what makes local TV news so important in today’s media world.
What originally attracted you to broadcast journalism?
It kind of started for me early. Elementary [school] was the beginning. My friends and I we were always clowning around at home. We would get the camcorder out and tape these little shows, just having fun in the basement.
We did a show at our elementary school and then we invited the local journalists from Minneapolis to take a look at our final product. They came to our elementary school and they watched our broadcast, you know, kind of helped us along the way with that. We did a similar program in high school.
Why is television news important in today's media world?
I think television news is important because it gives you a glimpse of what's going on in your direct community, especially local news. Obviously, national news is important, but local news is what's going on in your own backyard. And we've talked a lot about this, too, with the water emergency in Flint. We were doing stories for months about water quality and meeting with residents and talking to political leaders about the situation, trying to get answers about what was going on.
Then the national networks started coming to Flint and doing stories that, frankly, we were doing months before anybody on the national stage got involved. But, you know, we're in tune. We live here, we work here, we go out to restaurants and eat, so there's a certain level of involvement when it comes to local news.
How has the situation in Flint affected your job?
Our TV station is in the city of Flint so we're on city water. Obviously, we're not drinking water straight from the tap at the station.
Certainly the water situation has taken up a lot of our time. Shortly after I came on board is when the residents started talking about local issues with water quality. So, [it’s] still kind of scary actually reporting it, meeting the people that are really affected by it, people who live and work and depend on the water for everything they do. You think about it—when you wake up you use water to brush your teeth, you use water to cook with, to bathe with. It impacts a significant part of your everyday life.
How did your Columbia experience prepare you for your career?
From day one, I think Columbia sets you up to understand what's going to be needed once you walk out into the "real world.” I got involved with the journalism department, ended up working there and seeing the inner workings of how that operation works. The amount of people that you meet at Columbia who have experience all over the world is just immensely helpful, especially if you're going into careers that sometimes are untraditional.
Do you have any specific professors you really connected with?
Lillian Williams in the journalism department. We connected through one of the mentorship programs offered there, and she really helped me from day one. I had her as a professor later on. [She was] just a really down-to-earth, real person. [She had] a big career in local news and other journalism fields. And [she was] somebody that encouraged you but was hard on you.
Shifting gears for our last question, what sorts of hobbies do you enjoy outside of work?
I like to cook. I'm not a chef at all, but I can throw down a little bit in the kitchen. And I enjoy traveling. My wife and I, we just enjoy getting in the car and driving. We're about an hour or so away from Detroit, so we've been down to Detroit a few times. The Motown Museum is one place we've been to several times. It's where Stevie Wonder and all the Motown greats recorded songs.