By Joe Coffey | The Fifth Estate

It isn’t unusual for a media critic to write about a long-time journalist who is retiring. It’s interesting to know what a familiar reporter thinks about a local market after covering it for decades. Why did they choose to stay there? What are they going to do next? What do they think about the state of journalism?

This month, let’s flip that convention upside-down. Why not interview a new local journalist after their first day on the job? Surely, it’d be just as interesting to know what a newcomer thinks about our market. Why did they come to the Corridor, of all places? What were they doing before they got here?

Say hello to Deion Broxton, the newest reporter in town. Here are highlights from my conversation with him after his first day as a reporter at KGAN in Cedar Rapids.

Education – Towson University (Maryland), BA in Mass Communication/Media Studies.

Experience – Two years in Baltimore (Nielsen market #26) at the assignment desk for WMAR and producing digital content for WJZ. Two years in Bozeman (Nielsen market #186) as a reporter for NBC Montana, a network that includes KECI, KCFW and KTVM in the western part of the state.

His journey here – Deion says he “grew up in the hood” in Baltimore. He was interested in sports broadcasting but fell in love with the news side of journalism in college. He didn’t hesitate to pack up and move across the country to earn his stripes as a reporter.

His literal journey here – Deion was involved in a wreck while driving from Montana to Iowa. He’s fine but his car was totaled.

Why Iowa? Deion’s journalism career involved some paths he chose not to go down. A station in Macon, Georgia (Nielsen market #119) couldn’t close the deal, and he passed on an offer in Peoria, Illinois (Nielsen market #120), because the city just didn’t interest him. Deion says Bozeman didn’t have much crime-related news and that made him a better journalist as he had to dig hard to find stories that mattered. The Cedar Rapids/Iowa City/Waterloo/Dubuque/Cedar Falls market (Nielsen rank #90), as he describes it, “just seemed like a great next step, with solid news and interesting people.”

Why KGAN? Deion says KCRG offered him a job, but he went with KGAN because of previous station affiliations with parent company Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Sinclair slant – When asked for his thoughts on Sinclair – from the $48M fine the company paid to close three FCC investigations for deceptive practices to the infamous “must-run” conservative editorials that make other journalists stay away from Sinclair stations – Deion said those things have never affected his reporting and never will. “I hope people recognize that my stories aren’t slanted,” he said. “I’ve never been told to tell a story that favored one side and if I were to [be told that] I’d tell them, ‘You’ve got the wrong person because I’m not doing that.’”

On being black in mostly white Iowa – After going to mostly black elementary and middle schools and then a mostly white high school, Deion feels like he can relate to anybody and draw on his diverse experiences to better understand the people he interviews. He jokes that his African-American experience in nearly all-white Montana makes Iowa look like Africa, comparatively. “I saw one Black person a month in Bozeman,” Deion said. “Already, I’m seeing  Black people every day in Iowa.”

Going viral – You may recognize Deion from his viral outtake while doing a story in Yellowstone. It’s hilarious – his demeanor breaks from universal on-camera reporter to that of a regular guy as he dismounts the camera and tells an approaching bison, “I’m not messing with you.” The clip has been seen millions of times on social media and on major news outlets. ESPN, the Today Show, the NFL and the National Park Service all riffed on the clip. The internet continues make memes and remixes of it with no signs of slowing down. “It was madness,” Deion said, describing how the fun morphed into non-stop requests to be interviewed. “It was still going on when I wrecked my car … that was part of the craziness during my journey to Iowa.”

On the state of journalism – As a college journalist and an intern at WBAL in Baltimore during and after the Freddie Gray riots in 2015, Deion saw what it’s like when media audiences depend on, criticize and politicize journalists simultaneously as a big story unfolds. “All part of the process,” he said. Like a true journalist, Deion is hesitant to sling declarations of decline or praise when it comes to the state of journalism. He says he just wants a crack at covering the biggest story that each day brings.  •

Joe Coffey has 20 years of experience as a journalist, educator and marketer in the Corridor.