Journalists were told that Michael Brown did not face felony charges or an adult criminal record at the time of his death. But that didn’t stop reporters from digging.
Search Results for: Michael Brown
The death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri sparked the show, and now listeners around the country are finding the content of the podcasts also applies to their local communities
St. Louis Public Radio, dedicated to a local audience, has a hit show on its hands, and it is diverse — and national.
The station’s popular podcast series, “We live here” launched in February of 2015, six months after the death of Michael Brown at the hands of a Ferguson, Missouri police officer. But what started out as a local show has gone viral nationally with more than 100,000 streams, and only about 20,000 from people living in the St. Louis-Ferguson area.
While the national attention is great, the show started out as a platform for community issues in the St. Louis metro market.
As it turns out, “We Live Here” appears to be another example of “all news is local news,” says Aly Colón, the Knight Professor of Media Ethics in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications at Washington and Lee University. Colón says it is not surprising to him that the St. Louis-based podcast enjoys popularity around the country.
“People are drawn to situations that are similar to their own, no matter where they are,” he says. “We live in a streaming-savvy, high-tech, digitally-diverse world. There are simply more of those people nationally than there are in St. Louis. They tend to seek out news that is of interest to them, no matter where they live.”
The St. Louis NPR affiliate, KWMU, started the show with $175,000 in funding, — the largest single grant in the station’s history. The effort started as an effort to talk about the metro area and other diverse communities in the wake of Brown’s death, and how the St. Louis region could move forward. The original host wanted to explore local issues in St. Louis and the 90 municipalities that make up St. Louis County while exploring many of the same issues happening all over the country. It was never intended to be exclusively be the “Ferguson Show.”
And it isn’t.
With topics ranging from books for kids to affordable housing opportunities, “We Live here” has firmly established a national footprint, says Shula Neuman, the executive editor of St. Louis Public Radio.
“We started out saying, ‘let’s look at problems in St. Louis with awareness not exclusive to
St. Louis.’ ”
That programming angle quickly caught on, especially as NPR stations in other markets began participating in the podcasts with their own reporters.
Analysts say that approach is a key reason why the show is more popular outside St. Louis than in the city itself.
“The shooting of Michael Brown attracted national attention, which may have kind of skewed the (podcast) numbers,” said Steve Buttry, the Director of Student Media at the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. Buttry, who said he isn’t familiar with the podcast, said Baton Rouge has been at the center of national news lately. He points out that big national stories can draw attention away from local podcasts.
In Baton Rouge, flooding, the fatal shooting of three Baton Rouge police officers in July and the shooting death of Alton Sterling are big stories that could affect why “We Live Here” might be getting a disproportionate amount of traffic from outside the community, Buttry said. “But that’s not to say that it should not also be getting lots of local traffic,” he added.
The national outreach isn’t making everyone happy. Some St. Louis residents complain that the show isn’t promoted locally, which might also be why relatively few locals listen to it. Neuman acknowledges that the show does not have a local marketing budget. But she adds that the the funding for the show does not stipulate that the show must build a big local audience. NPR sees the show as a win for all of its markets.
“We started engaging with so many stations around the country,” she said. Neuman added that “there are only so many listeners (locally) in the market” compared to the country as a whole.
Neuman said to combat that the station is trying to engage the St. Louis community with listening parties and other events. Although it is not a formal marketing plan, the original grant for the show mandates that type of outreach. Buttry, the analyst, says that’s a good idea because local radio stations don’t always do a good in promoting local programming, on social media or otherwise.
“Facebook’s algorithm also buries a lot of brand content,” he said. “But if the station posts the content on local community pages, pages that belong to a local affordable housing advocacy organization, for example, the advocates would share it with its networks, thus increasing engagement that way.”
Still, the show is demonstrating that it is not about just St. Louis. That assertion is demonstrated in one recent episode about housing, in which sources from Georgia and San Francisco were interviewed, but nobody from greater St. Louis. Those shows, because of the content, clearly are more attractive to a national audience than local.
“If people don’t feel that it’s ‘about us,’ it won’t get shared, no matter how good the podcast,” Buttry said.
Initially hosted by journalists Tim Lloyd and Emanuele Berry (and edited by Neuman), “We Live Here” was designed to give voice to the St. Louis-area community and to disentangle political, economic and social binds through the power of storytelling and investigative reporting.
When the uprising over Brown’s death at the hands of a police officer in Ferguson had subsided, the issues that faced the communities of St. Louis County, a “jigsaw puzzle” (in the words of the podcast’s producers) of 90 separate municipalities, were just beginning to come into focus. That led to the podcast.
Trained in print media, Kameel Stanley joined the podcast last year (replacing Berry who had accepted a teaching position in the Fulbright Program).
“At this point in our careers, we’re not rookies, but we’re still curious,” says Stanley. “We want to grow and to do something that is outside the lines. When we came back for season two, we were interested to know if our audience had grown. And it had.”
That growth included national reach, and the show’s producers were fine with that. Twenty-one percent of the listeners are from St. Louis — the largest concentration of listeners, ranking ahead of New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area.
“There’s a saying that content is king. In this realm, context is king,” Stanley says of the show. “These issues are not new, and they’re not just happening in St. Louis. We might have a piece of the story that is better told by someone in California. We can show a continuum.”
That sense of a continuum from local to national informs the topics “We Live Here” has explored. Incarceration dovetails into economics, gun violence into public health, school funding into segregation, race into class into politics and back again. These are the issues at the heart of a broader American life.
“We’ve heard from everyone from suburban, white mothers who are trying to figure out how to talk to their kids about race,” explains Lloyd, “to young black men who are dealing with challenges in their own lives in St. Louis, and all points in between. We’ve heard from people that the podcast is part of their self-care, their self-development.”
“We Live Here” may have hit on just the right formula. Josh Stearns, director of journalism and sustainability at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, told Digiday.com that the sweet spot for any local podcast is covering local issues but in a way that appeals to broader audiences. “All of these [podcasts] could find niches outside of local audience even if they have that local lens,” he said in 2015.
“We Live Here” has offered recent shows have allowing individuals to shape their own stories. In episode 29, Stanley and Lloyd offer a simple prompt — “My America is…” — and lets their listeners complete the sentence in sometimes profound, sometimes delightful ways. In another episode, “We Live Here” joins forces with the storytelling group Second Tuesdays and the nonprofit UrbArts in St. Louis for a public event that exceeded both expectations and the capacity of the venue.
For season three, the producers plan to increase collaborations, but also to increase its investigative work to target institutional accountability.
“In April 2016, we did an episode on out-of-school suspensions for K3 in Missouri,” Stanley says. “Coincidentally or not, the next day St. Louis public schools announced they were banning out-of-school suspensions for early grades.”
“It’s hard to know how much impact an individual show has,” adds Lloyd. “But we did an episode on race relations in the University of Missouri system. There was so much national attention on it. There were a lot of questions about Tim Wolfe, who was the president of the system. We asked a very simple question: Did anyone ask him about race during the job interview? The answer was no.”
While “We Live Here” has examined the ways institutional racism shapes everyday life, the potential for changing those institutions remains within the communities and the political system. For Tommie Pierson, pastor of Greater St. Mark Family Church (located near Ferguson) and recent Missouri state legislator, the media has helped expose entrenched problems. He has seen some progress, but he stresses that core issues, especially at the level of representative democracy, remain.
“Some progress has come from the Department of Justice and the Ferguson Commission set up by the governor,” he states. “But there are still so many meaningful steps that need to be taken. You still have the same people who are just doing the bare minimum, just to make you go away. There’s been a lot of window washing. We need to be in decision-making positions. We don’t have that yet. Until we tackle that, this problem will come back every four or five years. It won’t be solved until communities can determine their own destinies.”
That idea of self-determination is an unstated theme running through the stories revealed by “We Live Here.” Understanding poverty, educational disparities, gun violence, affordable housing, and the criminal justice system means understanding how to create the conditions necessary for people to make lasting change.
“There’s a wellspring of people who really care and want to make things better,” Lloyd says. “But they are bumping up against structural barriers to making scalable reforms. Looking at systems and at people, it’s fascinating and it’s sad.”
Stanley agrees but adds: “We don’t just want to veer into abject blackness. We want to do fun stories, happy stories. We’re challenging ourselves to not just talk to black people about blackness and white people about whiteness. Having a black woman and a white man producing these shows has been important – in a small way, because we talk about these issues with each other all the time. We can disagree with each other and push each other on these issues.”
Both reportedly given pink slips for slamming the Mothers of The Movement’s appearance at the DNC.
One of the most moving moments of last week’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia was the Mothers of The Movement’s appearance. Hearing the anguished voices of the mothers of Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown humanized their tragic losses and the need for gun control and police reform.
However, not everyone was as impressed.
Two journalists reportedly have lost their jobs after posting racially insensitive comments on social media about the heartfelt speeches by the mothers.
On Friday, St. Louis Fox-affiliate reporter Bobby Hughes was reportedly fired for distastefully posting a joke about slain teen Michael Brown and his mother.
According to the St. Louis American, when hearing that Brown’s mother, Lezley McSpadden would be at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Hughes took to his Facebook page to say that McSpadden will probably “talk about the new lead diet she’s endorsed. Five servings and you can lose 200 lbs. in two years easily.”
Instantly, Hughes came under fire with local black police officers calling for his dismissal. In addition, it was reported that Hughes’ African-American KTVI colleagues planned an “emergency meeting” with the station general manager.
Suzie Mahe, a KTVI spokeswoman, said that she could not comment on personnel matters, but would confirm that “Bobby Hughes no longer works here; he’s no longer an employee of KTVI,” the St. Louis Post Dispatch wrote.
In Dallas, a local radio meteorologist resigned a day after making disparaging remarks about African-Americans who lost their lives to police brutality or other forms of state and gun violence.
According to the New York Daily News, on July 27, Bob Goosmann, the chief meteorologist for KRLD-AM, took to his Facebook page and posted the following status:
“As many of you have probably noticed, I’ve stayed away from politics on FB. The DNC parading the mothers of slain thugs around on their stage has me furious.”
Two days later, the station announced Goosmann had resigned “effective immediately,” with no further comment about his exit, the New York Daily News noted. Yet, Goosmann didn’t walk away quietly,as he defended himself in a Dallas newspaper article. He claimed that he didn’t know calling black people thugs could be interpreted as racist.
“I was angry that the DNC used these mothers to garner votes, and that was it,” Goosmann said.
“I used the word thugs in my post, but I thought a thug was just a violent person. The definition of thug does not mention any race. I will say I talked with an African American acquaintance and he told me that he feels like when he hears the word, it is in reference to an African-American individual. I had NO IDEA,” he concluded.
While both Hughes and Goosmann later apologized, apparently journalist integrity trumps expressing regret after the fact. It’s also clear that in the age of social media, everyone is truly watching — a lesson that these journalists learned the hard way.
Yamiche Alcindor, a national politics reporter for The New York Times, talks with AllDigitocracy’s Jon Dowding about why the appearance of Mothers of the Movement at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia is so significant.
Mothers of the Movement is comprised of mothers whose children have been killed by police. It includes Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin; Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland; Lucy McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis; Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner; Cleopatra Pendleton, the mother of Hadiya; Maria Hamilton, the mother of Dontre; Lezley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown; and Wanda Johnson, the mother of Oscar Grant.
But will readers pay for a second year of Ferguson coverage?
Mariah Stewart, Huffinton Post’s reporter in Ferguson, Missouri.
The Huffington Post, owned by media giant AOL and led by mulit-millionaire Arianna Huffington, says it needs another $40,000 to retain reporter Mariah Stewart to cover Ferguson, Missouri, a city that set off a year of tension after unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, was killed there a year ago.
“For the past year, thanks to readers across the country, we were able to stay in Ferguson, Missouri, even as the cable vans packed up and reporters headed off to the next national event,” readers an email sent to supporters Tuesday evening. “With readers’ help, The Huffington Post plans to stay for another year.”
Two months ago, AllDigitocracy asked Huffington Post editors whether they planned to continue reporting in Ferguson, and if they planned to keep Stewart in the job. At the time a spokeswoman declined to respond to our question, and Stewart said she did not know.
Huffington Post first retained Stewart in August 2014, following Brown’s death and weeks of violence. When Huffington Post launched its first crowdfund campaign to pay for its Ferguson coverage a year ago, editors did so, they said, because the position had not been included in the company budget. There was no reason given for why the position was not fully budgeted in-house for the upcoming year’s worth of coverage.
Stewart has spent much of the past year chronicling the structural inequities affecting the city and its surrounding communities. She has also spent her time producing coverage for The St. Louis American, a newspaper that targets the area’s African American readers.
The new crowdfund campaign will allow Huffington Post to continue this unique partnership with The St. Louis American, Tuesday’s email states.
So far $11,180 has been raised from contributors in the current crowdfund campaign. Supporters have 10 more days to donate.
Wesley Lowery, a reporter for the Washington Post, was one of the first members of the press to arrive in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of a white police officer. His coverage of the ensuing aftermath cast a light on the pent-up tensions between some Ferguson residents and law enforcement.
Lowery spoke at the “Excellence in Journalism” convention in Orlando during a panel on the rights and responsibilities of journalists covering protests. Latino Reporter caught up with Lowery after the panel to chat about what reporters should keep in mind when covering communities of color with complex racial histories and social tensions. Click here to read the rest of the story.
A year later and Huffington Post still can’t find the money in its budget to pay Ferguson Reporter Mariah Stewart?
By JEAN MARIE BROWN
Mariah Stewart, Huffington Post’s Ferguson reporter, has spent much of the past year chronicling the structural inequities affecting the city and its surrounding communities. But as her one-year crowdfunded appointment draws to a close, there’s still uncertainty about whether Stewart will still have a job come September.
“She’s still our fellow!” wrote Sujata Mitra, senior director of communications for Huffington Post in response to queries about Stewart’s role with the media company. When asked about the future of the Ferguson beat and Stewart’s future with the news organization via email, Mitra didn’t respond.
Stewart said separately there has been talk of an extension, but nothing has been decided.
A year ago this month 374 people contributed $43, 380 to allow Stewart to cover Ferguson for Huffington Post. The beat was expanded to include providing content to the St. Louis American in January.
When initially announced, Huffington Post said that they raised money from contributors to pay Stewart because the money was not included in the company’s budget.
“The crowd funding is really unique,” Stewart said. “It showed how much readers really were tuned into this story.”
But how interested can HuffPost readers be if the future of Stewart’s beat is still undecided?
Stewart works primarily with Huffington Post Washington, D.C,-based reporter Ryan J. Reilly, who Stewart shadowed in the early days of Ferguson protests. She has since been stationed at the St. Louis American, the city’s African American newspaper where she is located in the heart of one of St. Louis’ black communities. At the St. Louis American, she has access to resources that journalists at national mainstream outlets don’t, Stewart said.
In addition to working out of the St. Louis American’s newsroom, she’s also producing copy for the 70,000 circulation weekly newspaper.
“It’s been great,” Stewart said of the decision to move her into the St. Louis American. “There’s a ton more resources and more people to learn from.”
In the days immediately following the shooting death of Michael Brown, Stewart was part of the cadre of citizen journalists who used social media to file reports about the rioting and unrest that was sparked by Brown’s death. That’s what caught editors’ attention at Huffington Post and has helped the news organization uncover issues that it would have missed otherwise, Reilly said.
Stewart said the experience with Huffington Post and the St. Louis American, have helped hone her digital skills and learn how to do tough interviews. “Before I was a little bit hesitant and out of my comfort zone when it came to asking tough questions to people in authoritative positions. Now, I’ve gained a little bit more confidence with that and I’m ready to do it.”
Stewart graduated from Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri, mere months before Brown’s death, but wasn’t practicing her craft. “I fell out of love with journalism through school. I really didn’t find my niche,” she said. “I was working in retail as a professional bra fitter.”
Working for Huffington Post has helped her find her niche, social justice, and that she now sees journalism as a career, she added.
The visceral reaction to Brown’s death might have caught the nation off guard, but not Stewart, who grew up about 30 minutes away from Ferguson in St. Charles County. “The fact that the town erupted, I honestly wasn’t surprised,” she said noting there were protests after unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin was killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. There was always talk that if something similar happened in St. Louis, the city would be out of control, Stewart said.
Once Ferguson ignited, Stewart said the journalist in her reacted. “I came down to Ferguson without any news organization attached to me,” she said. Stewart posted video and tweeted developments on the ground as they were happening.
She soon learned Beacon was looking for freelancers. After a week, Stewart said she was told the Huffington Post was interested in creating a crowd funded fellowship that covered her salary while the site provided benefits. Some in the media criticized the fellowship at that time and questioned why Huffington Post didn’t hire her outright.
That’s the same question AllDigitocracy asked this month, and so far there still isn’t an answer.
Jean Marie Brown is an instructor in the School of Journalism in the Bob Schieffer College of Communication at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. She has a master’s degree in journalism from TCU and she earned her bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Prior to teaching at TCU, she worked for Knight-Ridder and later McClatchy newspapers as a reporter, mid-level editor and senior editor.
MINNEAPOLIS—One year after the Ferguson, Missouri, police killing of Michael Brown, some black journalists say efforts to quash coverage of such events areaffecting their journalism.
Three African-American reporters who covered Ferguson talked about how law enforcement’s efforts to stifle the news have changed them. They spoke August 8 at the 40th annual National Association of Black Journalists conference in Minneapolis. Brown was killed August 9, 2014.
Reporters in Ferguson experienced police silence, being cordoned away from the news, tear gas and arrest. These journalists say they now rely more on the community for news, truth and balance. They are also opening their lenses to show the larger story of systemic racial injustice.
Wesley Lowery, a Washington Post national reporter covering law enforcement and justice, was shut out of official avenues in Ferguson by being stonewalled, arrested and removed from the street. He turned more to the community.
“It was hard to get even the most basic information,” Lowery said. The first press conference by the police was on the second night and it had very little information or explanation of what had happened. What we saw as we covered that first week was a lack of information.”
Lowery said, “when we drop into a story like this, we now understand more broadly that it is not just to tell the story of this guy but also the coverage of specific interactions and the lack of relationship and the feeling of anger and abuse in the community.”
He said, “this is not the hyperspecifics of an individual but a much broader story“ about relationships among men and women and communities and police.
Errin Whack, who reports on culture and politics, covered Ferguson for Fusion.net. She said, “We certainly were trying very hard every day to hear the police perspective on this story. … We wanted to hear from Darren Wilson.” That was not to be, as briefings were scarce, selective and limited. Some reporters used the community to fill the vacuum and moved further from matching perspectives paragraph for paragraph. “We were engaging with them (the people) on a daily and nightly basis,” Whack said.
She said that the release of facts and images selected to paint Brown in an unfavorable light needed to be balanced or filled in.
NABJ panel moderator Eric Deggans, TV critic for National Public Radio, said that African-American journalists “are asked to cover these riots and these protests. … We often have to be the bridge between a white audience, black people and police.”
Trymaine Lee, who covered the story for MSNBC, said journalists cannot look at these stories as isolated cases or stories about lone individuals, but must tell them in the larger context of systemic injustice.
He said some also see parallels between the black community’s relationship with the police and its relationship with the press.
Speaking to about 100 journalists, Lee said, “The activists will see you as part of the larger system of oppression. … You have to separate yourself from your media organization and try to stand on your own reputation as a journalist rather than the organization’s.”
He said that while journalists understand why access can mean that a booking photo of a victim might be paired with a portrait of a police officer, the effect is still slanted and unexplained to news audiences.
The reporters said they found more than access in the community. Lee said, “I felt a lot safer with the community and not having a great big red press sign on me.” He said the profile of being a journalist made him feel like a target.
Lowery said Ferguson reinforced the value of using small devices and social media. Phones can be used for photos, video and filing stories more discreetly than doing the same with a laptop, camera or even a notebook.
Journalists and the community used social media to put stories out, and the police sometimes used it to hide, Lowery said. He said police sent out a message on social media telling hand-picked reporters about “a press conference across town.” One of those reporters sent him a screenshot of the message, he said.
Whack said that Ferguson became the beginning of a year of transformation for some black journalists. She ticked off the datelines that have been associated with police aggression toward African-Americans since then: New York, Cleveland, Baltimore, Charleston, Texas. She said, “When you see these incidents happen in America, directed at people who look like you … it affects you.”
Joe Grimm is visiting editor in residence at the Michigan State University School of Journalism. There, he is editor of a series of guides to cultural competence. This fall, the class will produce “100 Questions and Answers About African Americans.”
I spent last week at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, covering the national NAACP’s annual convention.
If you saw some of the coverage on television, you know that there was no shortage of heavy hitters participating in the organization’s 106th annual gathering. Although she didn’t talk about the Freddie Gray case, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby stopped by, as did U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Heck, President Barack Obama came by and talked about how he was going to clean up the mess that is the criminal justice system. And former President Bill Clinton came by to tell NAACP members how sorry he was for creating said mess by signing the Crime Bill of 1995 into law, a bill that made huge mandatory sentences the norm and not the exception.
But while there were workshops on everything from education to LGBT rights, there was no workshop on the media, its impact on the lives of people of color, and how to get your message–or what you feel is the right message–out to a public that might not care about voting rights, police brutality or economic injustice as much as it ought to.
It’s that last one that I’d like to focus on because if the NAACP, or any other like-minded organization, would like to see better coverage, it’s got to be a joint effort…something that it wasn’t always last week in Philadelphia.
On the Friday before the convention officially started, members of the NAACP leadership held a press conference at the Convention Center. The press conference was designed to tell the press about what was on the agenda, how to get credentials to cover President Obama, and to highlight things like the author’s pavilion (which is where I met Harriet Glickman) and a massive job fair filled with companies looking to hire, something that’s desperately needed in a town with the highest deep poverty rate of any city of its size.
Assembled at the dais were a group that included Roslyn M. Brock, chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors, Convention Chair Leon Russell, President and CEO of the NAACP Cornell William Brooks, Philadelphia NAACP chapter president Min. Rodney Muhammad, and Dwayne Jackson, president of the NAACP’s Pennsylvania State Conference.
After everyone made their statements, the floor was opened up to questions, so I asked about the disconnect that established civil rights organizations seem to have with younger folks like, say, the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
It wasn’t a disconnect that I was just making up. When the Rev. Al Sharpton held a march back in December, young people had to bum rush the stage to be heard. The Rev. Jesse Jackson was booed when he came to Ferguson, Missouri, after the death of Michael Brown because the activists on the ground were a little annoyed by the perception that he not only parachuted in, but tried to take over.
I even had a conversation with a young activist on Twitter who bemoaned the fact that this generation of activists has heard “What da hell is a hashtag?! Ya’ll ain’t gonna get nothin’ done with that! Y’all need to march!” one too many times from elders who should be mentoring, instead of hectoring, them.
But while I had a legitimate basis for my question, and plenty of incidents to back it up, many of the folks on the dais were not trying to hear me on this point.
First, they brought up Da’Quan Love, chair of the NAACP’s National Youth Work Committee, a member of the organization’s national board of directors, and someone who was on the dais, but probably wouldn’t have gotten the chance to speak had I not asked my question. They also brought up a lot of college aged kids who were members of college student chapters.
“The NAACP has one of the largest groups of non-religious affiliated youth in the country,” Love said. “We have over 1,000 high school students that are here for the ACT-SO competition, the Olympics of the mind. We also have students that will be participating legislatively. While some may say that we have a gap with [young people], we have spent the last 10 years trying to bridge that gap. NAACP is one of the only national organizations that have a place for young people on the board.”
So because the last thing that Love did before he left the stage was blame the media, I asked a follow-up question: “It’s one thing to say you’re doing things, but you have to be seen doing them. Since the perception that the NAACP has a disconnect with the young is still out there, and you’re blaming the media for that, what are we missing?”
Basically, Love repeated himself, punctuated with a “Run Tell That!” from Chairwoman Brock.
(It’s not every day that I’m told to “kick rocks” as a reporter with the title of a Martin Lawrence movie, but hey…)
Since I’m not really big on taking no, or your first couple of no’s, as a final answer, I went to Chairwoman Brock and asked if it would be possible for the two of us to sit down and talk about what the media is getting wrong when it comes to the NAACP. If there’s something that we’re not getting and need to know as journalists, AllDigitocracy.org is the best place to get the word out, I said.
I submitted my request in writing. Twice. After a while, the folks in the press office were tired of seeing me as I followed up on my request.
I’m still waiting.
Now, I got so involved in covering the convention itself with all its moving parts that it took a colleague of mine pointing it out for me to realize that there were no media workshops on the program. There was supposed to be one on Hashtag Activism, but it was reduced to a 10 minute summation because it was scheduled at the same time as President Obama’s speech.
So, because I’m a helpful sort, and because I’ve had a while to think about it, I’d like to offer some suggestions to the NAACP and other non-profits who want better, more inclusive coverage of what they do because, let’s face it, knowing what these folks are doing benefits all of us.
1-Before you invite reporters in, know what you want them to know and get them that information quickly: Newsrooms are a lot smaller these days. City desks that used to house 15-20 people, now house five…maybe. Unless they’re freelance writers like myself who have a little more time to spend with your organization, reporters can’t hang around for hours as you figure out what you want to say. Know that before you invite us in.
2-Make the people most connected to your issue available for interviews: As I mentioned earlier in this piece, I sent a written request to the NAACP’s leadership for a sit-down regarding the issue of young people, the NAACP, the perceived disconnect and how the media plays into it. I also sent written requests for interviews with other participants in the conference, particularly those involved in the Hashtag Activism panel.
I’m still waiting for a response. And while I don’t think that folks need to drop everything to talk to reporters, answering an email or a phone call to respond for a request for information doesn’t take a lot of time…and it might be the difference between getting it right and getting it wrong.
3-A good, fact-filled press release is your friend: Even if a reporter can’t necessarily make it to your press conference, a good press release that details what you want the media to know and understand about your issue can still get coverage for your organization. Make sure that all of the information you send is correct and has sources attached. If it’s an event you want us to attend, make sure that the date, place, and time are on the release. (You’d be surprised at how often I get press releases that don’t contain that information.) Include a contact person who not only is available by phone or email, but who can share some things that might not be on the release itself.
4-Be prepared for questions: Now what do I mean by that? I mean that if you’re going to have a press conference on the issues connected to your organization, be prepared for reporters to have questions for you, questions that might contain information that you don’t want to talk about. Reporters don’t ask questions in a vacuum and they generally don’t ask things that aren’t based on research they’ve already done. If it’s a question that you either don’t want to answer or have a disagreement with, say that.
While it’s my NAACP experience that has inspired this column, it’s something that I’ve wanted to say to and about non-profits for a long time. Right now, non-profits are doing most of the good work that’s being done in our communities and they deserve their moment in the sun.
But it’s really hard to get it right when we don’t have all of the information.
In other words, we can’t “Run Tell Dat!” when we’re not sure what “Dat” is…
Denise Clay is assistant editor of allDigitocracy.org. She is also contributing editor at The Philadelphia Sunday Sun.
Fixing Lives or Ratings Grab?
OWN Network host, author, and relationship expert Iyanla Vanzant is in Baltimore this week, she says, to help heal the city. But Black Twitter isn’t buying it.
Vanzant traveled to Ferguson, Missouri last year following the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown. At the time Vanzant said she wanted to help fix the city, but when she arrived with cameras in tow to record a special episode of her OWN series, “Fix My Life,” detractors accused her of profiting off the pain in the wake of Brown’s death.
So now that Vanzant is in #Baltimore, Black Twitter is in an uproar. If she goes there asking about fathers and equates fatherhood with civil rights and freedom, social media might just go ballistic.
The death of Freddie Gray — the 25-year-old West Baltimore man who suffered a severe spinal cord injury in police custody — “pulled off the Bandaid for something that required open heart surgery,” said Empowerment Temple pastor Rev. Jamal Harrison Bryant. Bryant’s church is holding a series of events this week that serve as “group therapy” for people to discuss economic oppression and violence, among other issues, according to a report in the Baltimore Sun. Vanzant, an an Upper Marlboro resident, volunteered to host the sessions.
Let’s step back into Storify and see if Vanzant will learn from #Ferguson? This is not a game. Don’t roll up into Baltimore talkin’ about fixing lives if you won’t also point out fixing abandoned buildings, empty lots and institutionalized white supremacy via police brutality. And don’t ask Marilyn Mosby, Esq. to hold hands and sing, neither!