Beyond the byline: Balanced reporting is the responsibility of my profession says local reporterAug 02, 2022 10:54AM ● By Linnea Lundgren
By Linnea Lundgren | [email protected]
Editor’s note: this series highlights the writers behind the stories found here each month.
Mimi Darley Dutton has been a Draper resident for 16 years and has covered city government for the Draper Journal for eight years. She is a regular at the bimonthly Draper City Council meetings where you’ll find her in the back taking notes, and her resulting stories often grace the front page of the paper. The City Journals sat down with her to ask questions about her life and her reporting.
Q: You were born and raised in Oregon. So the first question is: Beavers or Ducks?
A: Beavers! Absolutely! I am a third generation Oregon State University Beaver. Both my grandfathers attended when it was Oregon Agricultural College, my parents went when it was Oregon State College, and my sister and I graduated from Oregon State University.
Q: How did you become interested in journalism?
A: I wrote for and edited my high school newspaper, and I think part of my interest in journalism came from my mom who worked on the student newspaper at Oregon State. She learned some valuable lessons in the process and even got to meet/sit at a table with Eleanor Roosevelt at a luncheon for college journalists. In other words, I learned journalism has a valuable role in society.
Q: What has been your favorite story to report?
A: It was an inspirational story on the food bank here in Draper. (www.draperjournal.com/2020/06/29/319628/draper-pantry-has-plenty-for-those-in-need) It was not just about volunteers passing out food, but it was about them helping people find resources. Many volunteers had had the same life experiences as those seeking help, and many returned to volunteer to help others when they got back on their feet, so it was inspiring.
Q: What do you enjoy most about reporting?
A: You learn about the changes happening in town, and you’re often the first to hear about them. I meet people who come to council meetings and who are active participants in trying to make Draper a good place to live. It is neat to sit (in council meetings) and watch them make decisions that affect our community.
Q: Why is it important to have local journalism?
A: The TV stations and major newspapers rarely come to Draper unless there is a big story, but there is a lot happening here. Without a paper like the Draper Journal people wouldn’t know about what’s happening in the community, the accomplishments of our kids in school and sports, our outstanding teachers and amazing residents. It is rare for a person to be able to sit through city council meetings twice a month, but I am there doing that. If I wasn’t, much would go unreported.
Q: What’s the greatest challenge of reporting?
A: Getting people who are willing to talk to and trust me. It is my responsibility to report on events, who the players are and what decisions are being made. Sometimes there is conflict and I often can see both sides, which is an important role—to present that there is more than one side to a story. I’ve reported for eight years now and I develop trust by asking people to give me an opportunity—to tell both sides of the story because that is the responsibility of my profession. I tell the basic facts of the story and let the reader decide for themselves.
Q: If community news isn’t reported, what happens?
A: Journalism has been under attack in so many ways. This is a real threat—if no one is telling stories, we all are lacking for a lot of information. Decisions are being made that affect our lives, our livelihoods, our children’s lives, and our general health and well-being. Also, there is value in learning about interesting things that are happening in our community.
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: I am definitely an Oregon person, and I thought I’d live my whole life there. But we moved to Idaho in 1999, and then to Utah in 2006. You have to learn to bloom where you are planted, and I’ve definitely learned that there are good people wherever you go. I treasure my family (Chad, husband of 27 years, Jack who attends the University of Utah, Will who is a junior at Alta High School, and Luke in Heaven). I enjoy volunteering for my church and I am grateful for my friendships here. I learn a lot from the people I meet on my life’s journey.