Marissa Sittler

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As a result of my reporting this semester, I realized the disparity between media coverage of the minority groups and the majority population in Utah. While it should not surprise me (why would Utah have greater coverage of minorities than Hollywood or the mass media?), it still was a little disheartening. The silver lining behind this, is that our class and the following Voices classes have the opportunity to highlight and learn more about the minority groups in Utah. As a person of color, I recognize this project’s importance and the great need we have for it not only at the University of Utah, but the Utah community as a whole.

Another result of my reporting this semester is that I gained more experience in the field of journalism. For previous courses (although some were not strictly journalism courses, more so general writing courses), I was not always required to actually go out and find sources and set up interviews. I would say that I had a pretty firm grasp of the interviewing process prior to this class, but this class really gave me a taste of having to chase after potential sources and following up with them several times, if they did not get back to me. That leads me into some of the disappointments and successes that I experienced this semester.

My first story, which was a profile on Susi Feltch-Malohifo’ou and her journey of self-acceptance as a transracial adoptee, is the story that I am most proud of. As a transracial adoptee, I was able to connect with Susi and the sentiments she expressed, such as sadness, anger and confusion. Susi shared with me that she was grateful “for the opportunity for me to share this part of me that has turned into a strength.” I think this is why I am the most proud of this piece, because I was able to write a story that was close to me and I felt that I did it justice to Susi. While I feel that this story was a huge success, I was also a little disappointed because one of the sources I really wanted to interview, Susi’s longtime friend, did not get back to me until far after the deadline for the story passed. I think that her thoughts and contributions would have made the story even more personal.

Another disappointment was with the lack of depth that my third story on the umbrella organization, Nā HALE, had. Overall, I think that I did the best that I could, since Nā HALE is not a fully formed organization. Several times I was told that this was more “a concept” than a formal organization. I knew of its fairly new beginning when Jake Fitisemanu Jr. came to talk to our class and he said that it did not have a website. Despite this, I still wanted to pursue the story because I thought that it was worthwhile. Because of these factors, this did make for a shorter story than I wanted. Additionally, my photos for this story were not as interesting as my previous ones, which were all portraits.  

On a more personal level, there was a time that I felt like an outsider during my beat reporting this semester. When I met Susi at the Kearns Library, she explained to me that Kearns is one of the poorest cities in Salt Lake County, even below West Valley City. She also said that the library feeds a good amount (I can’t remember the exact number) of kids, which isn’t something that a typical library does. I have felt like an outsider for a lot of my life being an Asian American adoptee, growing up with two white parents and living in predominantly white, upper-middle-class communities. I’ve mainly felt like an outsider in Utah because of my race. There have also been times that I have felt like an insider, which I think is the feeling of belonging and not feeling out of place.

There have been instances where I have felt like I stood out for my socioeconomic status. But when I met with Susi and she explained to me how a lot of the kids at the Kearns library are there alone, without their parents since their parents just dropped them off and/or are there to be fed, I really felt the privilege that I have had throughout my life. Those are things that have never happened to me, that I have never experienced. I thought about my fond memories of going to the library when I was younger with my mom and older sister. And I thought about how my mom would have made food for us before or after the library. What overpowered the feeling of being an outsider was my gratitude for the life that I have, but also guilt for what I have. This did not affect my reporting, mainly because it wasn’t the focus of my story, but I think it affected me more on a larger, more personal scale. And, it might even impact the type of stories that I write in the future.

I am still exploring who I am as a journalist. I still have a lot to learn, a lot of people to listen and talk to. I want to be able to share their stories and mine. The unknown can be really scary. But I am excited to be able to explore the potential that I have and share my voice with the world.

ABOUT ME: 

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Marissa Sittler graduated from the University of Utah in May 2018 with her bachelor’s degree in communication with an emphasis in journalism. During her time at the university, she completed two internships. The summer before her junior year, she interned with the nonprofit organization Mali Rising Foundation as its communication intern. She assisted the executive director in energizing a social media campaign, in addition to writing blog posts for the website. During the spring semester of her junior year, she was the internal communication specialist for the Salt Lake County Health Department. As such, she researched, interviewed and wrote employee spotlights for internal use to increase morale within the department.

Her academic achievements include the Dean’s List for the spring and fall semesters of 2016 and 2017, as well as being a member of Kappa Tau Alpha, the national honor society for journalism and mass communication.

She hopes to earn her master’s degree in journalism in the near future.

Some of her guilty pleasures are breakfast food, including pancakes, waffles and hash browns. She also loves being an aunt to her older sister’s dog, Chloe.