Poynter to host conversation on covering social justice issues

AJ+ producer Damu Bobb uses a mobile rig to report from Baltimore. (Photo by Devin Allen)

AJ+ producer Damu Bobb uses a mobile rig to report from Baltimore. (Photo by Devin Allen)

As editors reorganize and identify new beats or topics, social justice reporting is gaining ground as an area of coverage. In the San Francisco Bay area, where social justice is a simmering topic, newsrooms are developing creative approaches.

The Center for Investigative Reporting sent poets and playwrights into the field with reporter Amy Julia Harris to examine the state of the some of worst public housing imaginable in Richmond, California.

Public radio station KQED commissioned graphic artist Andy Warner to create a comic book describing citizen’s legal rights when they get pulled over by the police. They distributed comic book to high school students.

AJ+’s Shadi Rahimi helped develop a strategy for covering citizen protests that starts with reporters documenting events and witnesses on their cell phones and publishing raw video straight to social media. Read more


Monday, Sep. 26, 2005

Race and Reporting: After Matter, Tips and Comments

Here are a few things left in the notebook from Institute
for Justice and Journalism’s seminar at Harvard for its 2005 racial justice

‘Covering Race Beyond the Box’: Newsrooms
are facing increasing financial and staffing pressures, making it harder at
some newspapers for reporters to get stories about an issue as complex as race
into the paper. This panel of reporters and editors discussed tactics to
overcome that obstacle.

Mae Cheng, an editor at Newsday and president of Unity:

  • Write
    “bite sized stories on the same topic” instead of the five-day project.
  • Repackage
    these stories after several months, in print or online, to get a
    cumulative effect.
  • Develop
    partnerships with ethnic or alternative media.
  • Use
    different story forms. “We may need to get off  our high horses and blog.” If “our
    ultimate goal is to be conscience of society” then use whatever format is
Read more

Friday, Sep. 23, 2005

Journalism, Race and Katrina: Connecting the Dots

From Tim Porter: That the U.S. news media was under-reporting the extent of poverty in America before Hurricane Katrina brought it into everyone’s living-room is known.

That the news media attention span is about the length of a sweeps period is known, meaning the sudden appearance of the permanent underclass on the daily news menu will be temporary.

That the racial divide in this country, narrowed in the last half-century, exists still in subtle but insidious forms, many fostered by the stereotyping of the news media, is known.

Given that, two sets of panels at the Institute for Justice and Journalism’s gathering at Harvard for its 2005 racial justice fellows attempted to make sense of the pre- and post-Katrina news coverage.

The lessons of Katrina for journalists extend far beyond New Orleans and Biloxi and Pascagoula. Read more


Thursday, Sep. 22, 2005

When Journalism Meets Advocacy

From Claudia Meléndez
Sally (Lehrman) makes a very good point when she implies that we,
as journalists, end up “covering up” instead of covering race. What I have to
say in my defense is that when I’ve wanted to talk about racism or segregation
or bias my editors have always asked me to attribute my comments – and that’s
when I run into trouble. Frequently, I know people feel there’s prejudice or
bias against them but they don’t want to be quoted saying that. Some editors
prefer reporters not to write with authority, which eliminates my ability to
say what I’ve experienced about race even if I find nobody to attribute it to.

I was struck by the similarities between Roxbury and the
Alisal, one of the communities I cover in Salinas, Calif. Read more


One Neighborhood, Many Stories

From Tim Porter: Massachusetts Avenue connects the ivied walls of Harvard to the gates of a former urban Hell.

The avenue runs from Cambridge to Boston, bisecting the sprawling MIT campus, crossing the Charles River, skirting the 52-story Prudential Center, leaving downtown and less than two miles farther forming the eastern boundary of one of the city’s most notorious neighborhoods, Roxbury.

Using the phrase “urban hell” to describe Roxbury’s past is not hyperbole. In the 1960s and 1970s, after the post-War white population had moved to Boston’s burgeoning suburbs, Roxbury took on a different complexion – black African-Americans from the South and brown immigrants from Cape Verde, a group of North Atlantic islands west of Senegal.

Property values plummeted, victim of a society that associated people of color with a neighborhood in decline. Read more


Race, Class and Katrina Webcast

From Steve Montiel:
Two discussions today on “Race, Class and Katrina” will be webcast as part of the IJJ’s gathering at Harvard of its 2005 racial justice fellows. The topics, times (EDT) and panelists are:

  • Context and Consequences (1:15 p.m.-2:30 p.m. EDT): Ellis Cose,
    Newsweek; Lani Guinier, Harvard University; and Bob Giles, Nieman
  • Journalistic Challenges (3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. EDT): Martha
    Mendoza, Associated Press; Bryan Monroe, Knight Ridder; Erna Smith,
    USC Annenberg School for
    Communication; Kevin Weston, New California Media/Pacific News Service,
    Victor Merina, USC Annenberg’s Institute for Justice and Journalism.

The panels will address questions such as:

  • What did we learn from Hurricane Katrina about race and justice in America?
  • How can these lessons strengthen journalism about justice and injustice?
  • What do journalists need to know to report accurately and authoritatively about race and poverty?
Read more

Collision with Complexity

From Keith Woods: We watched the movie “Crash
last night as part of our larger mission of pushing the discussion down
to the personal, to the visceral. I’d seen the film in the theater
before and remember how anxious it made me feel. This time, I watched
it in Poynter’s amphitheater with a different trepidation.

Not that I was worried about how the
journalists would react, though it’s funny how much more aware you are
of nude scenes or the number of times actors say the f-word (impossible
to count) when people are in your building watching a movie that you

My worry, though, was that I would feel
like a sucker, like a lightweight, new arrival to the race
conversation. Because I really liked the film the first time. Read more


Good Quotes, Better Lessons

From Tim Porter: Journalists receive less training than their peers in any other profession, due in part to the news industry’s lack of investment in it. It’s natural, then, for journalists to rank training even higher than more pay as their top priority.

Still, I’ve always thought training was a poor word for what journalists need. I prefer learning – or education. Training is to learning what typing is to writing. It’s a sterile word, invoking memories of safety drills, driver’s ed or learning the commands for that new front-end system. Learning, though, involves creativity, stretching of the mind and mastering new skills. It’s professional growth.

A great thing about journalists is that when they get togethers they learn from one another. Peer to peer. Read more


Wednesday, Sep. 21, 2005

Covering Race — or Covering It Up?

From Sally Lehrman: Listening to the discussion about the biological non-reality of race (led by  Harvard School of Public Health professor Ichiro Kawachi), I wonder if the idea may be all too easy. If we can just wipe away race, won’t racial bias fall away with it? If we realize that race isn’t a biological fact, won’t the social hierarchies based on race finally disappear?

Well no, as our speakers (at the IJJ fellows conference) on health disparities so clearly showed. But I wonder — do we journalists sometimes wipe away both race and racism in the hope that they will go away? Do we avoid using terms like “segregation” or “bias” or “privilege” in favor of more comfortable terms –”disparities,” for instance? Do we talk about individual acts of prejudice or hostility, instead of the social and cultural institutions that help make racism a reality every day? Read more


Reporting on Race and Health

From Tim Porter: First some data:

  • About
    17.5 percent of American adults don’t have health insurance. If you’re
    Hispanic, though, the number is 35 percent; African American, 22.8
    percent; white, only 12.7 percent.
  • The
    life expectancy of an American male is 73.4 years. But if you are a black
    man in Washington, D.C., it’s only 57.9 years – less time alive than in
    Ghana, Bangladesh or Bolivia.
  • American
    minorities less likely than whites to be treated well for heart disease, receive
    kidney dialysis or transplants or get sophisticated HIV treatment. They
    are, however, more likely than whites to receive “certain less-desirable
    procedures,” such as having a leg amputated for diabetes.

Does this racial disparity in health care sound like news?
Certainly it does – and the U.S. Read more