Today the Border Belt Independent highlights staff writer Ivey Schofield, who majored in languages but has found her calling in journalism. She splits her time between The News Reporter in Whiteville and the BBI.
Q. Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in a small town in South Carolina called Eastover. After graduating high school, I moved almost 1,000 miles away to Vermont, where I studied Spanish and Arabic at Middlebury College. Ever since, I’ve been making my way back down South. I moved to D.C. where I got my first job in journalism, and after a couple of years there I decided I wanted to be closer to family and came to Whiteville to work at The News Reporter.
My favorite thing to do is walk my dogs. Even though my two Australian Shepherds are very hyperactive, walking them is really just an excuse for me to have a designated time to think. It’s my therapy. I also love to sit out in the sun — especially at the beach — and read or journal. That’s really the only time I relax since I’m always working on at least one project.
Q. Why did you get into journalism? When did you know it’s what you wanted to do?
I didn’t dream of becoming a journalist; the career path found me. At a young age, I knew I loved languages because it afforded me the opportunity to speak to new people and to learn about different ways of life. I thought I would become a diplomat. While studying languages in Vermont, I also began conducting research into sexual and domestic violence on campus and publishing survivors’ stories. At that point, I wanted to use my ability to write to share people’s experiences. Journalism gave me the platform to lift up others’ voices and make a difference.
Q. Are there stories or topics that particularly interest you?
I am interested in telling the stories that aren’t getting told. I want to highlight one person’s experience to discuss a societal phenomenon — such as interpersonal violence, mental health, or access to resources — and also to show the impact of governmental decisions or the application of constitutional rights. Many news organizations aren’t able to tell these stories, whether that’s due to lack of resources, will, or awareness. I hope to close that gap as much as I can.
Q. Is there one story you’ve done that you’re especially proud of or one that had a lot of impact?
Several years ago I wrote a story about the effectiveness of a piece of legislation called the address confidentiality program. Getting a driver’s license, registering to vote, obtaining a Social Security card, and receiving public school and court records all digitally publicize a person’s home address. As a result, many survivors of domestic violence, who have escaped their abuser and found new places to live, are afraid to get these documents and publicize their new residences. In most states, they can apply for the address confidentiality program, which will give them a dummy address to put on their driver’s licenses or voter registrations.
I called every sexual and domestic violence coalition in the United States to better understand the application of this program. I learned that in some rural areas like Wyoming this program isn’t effective at all. In towns where everybody knows everybody, it’s easy for abusers to track down anyone who tried to escape. In addition, a domestic abuse lawyer from California argued that invisibility is impossible in the digital age; creating a dummy address through this program wouldn’t do any good and actually gave survivors false hope.
I’m proud of all the work I put into this article to show the application of state and federal legislation. It’s important to evaluate the effectiveness of policymakers’ decisions.
Q. What kind of impact do you hope to have with the Border Belt Independent?
Through public records requests and data analysis, I hope to provide context to the everyday experience in southeast North Carolina. I want these stories to reach lawmakers’ desks and show the real-life applications of their decisions or highlight the issues that need legislative attention. I also hope to highlight the successes of southeast North Carolina — the good deeds, the new investments, and the voices that are trying to make a difference. I want to show the state, and the rest of the country, who the Border Belt truly is.