“The letter said, ‘Congrats, you’re
a winner,’ Fox recalls. “So I started reading from the bottom—and found
my name right at the top.”
After graduating in 1988, he spent two years freelancing before joining The Sun in 1990, always “trying to find interesting angles and different perspectives.”
It’s a literal goal—Fox climbs up high, lies low on the ground, all
in search of a unique image, “something that makes a person look twice.”
But his approach to photography could be said for journalism itself.
“You have to look at every single angle—as a story, as a picture,”
Fox says. “Sometimes people look in one direction, so that’s all they
Donovan appreciates that oblique approach.
“Don’t ever make assumptions, or you’ll become blind to other facts,”
he says. “A good journalist is honest, responsible and fair. If you’re
not, you won’t last long. You also have to get out from behind the desk.
Meet people face-to-face. It gets you closer to the real truth.”
Facts are facts
To be a good journalist
is to “know the rules inside and out so that you can know when they’re
being broken,” Donovan adds. “You need to know more about how the people
in power are supposed to operate than those people themselves. The
government agencies that are supposed to enforce the rules don’t always
do, usually because they’re understaffed.”
And that’s both the promise and peril of journalism. As staffs get smaller, the job gets harder.
“If you get the facts right, they can be up for interpretation,” says
Donovan. “But people just get selected facts now. We pick and choose
what we want to see.”
It’s not unlike the story of Catherine Pugh.
Looking back on the Pulitzer Prize-winning piece, Donovan and Fox both marvel at the absence of political oversight.
“What was most interesting to me was just how many organizations saw nothing wrong,” Donovan says.
The University of Maryland Medical System paid $500,000 for Pugh’s
books while she was a trustee; insurer Kaiser Permanente paid more than
$100,000 for the books while seeking a $48 million medical contract; and
from 2011-2016, Pugh cosponsored more than 40 bills affecting doctors,
hospitals and insurance companies, all while failing to disclose the
payments she received or recusing herself from votes and decisions
involving the medical system.
“This is why we do what we do,” says Fox. “The system requires checks and balances.”
Article by Artika Rangan Casini
Published May 27, 2020