By DONOVAN MAURICE AVANT HARRELL
“Hands up, don’t shoot,” #Blacklivesmatter and “I can’t breathe” are phrases that have spread across the black community. But what do they mean for black journalists?
“I don’t have the privilege of taking my skin off when I show up on assignment,” said Wesley Lowery, a national reporter for The Washington Post. “When I walk into any assignment, I am the person that I am, and I’m going to be perceived based on who I am for good or for bad, and my work is going to be perceived for that.”
Lowery was one of more than a dozen African-American journalists who were interviewed for the “Reportedly Black” podcast — a three-part series which explores topics ranging from separating racial identity and reporting to the responsibility of covering issues affecting the black community.
Journalism students spent three months interviewing a wide range of journalists including Leonard Pitts, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Miami Herald and Jemele Hill, co-host of ESPN’s “His and Hers.”
Pitts questioned why black journalists, and not white journalists, are asked to divorce their race from their reporting in the first place.
“We tend to forget that white is a race too and that white carries baggage in whatever situation that white reporters are reporting on as well,” Pitts said. “As reporters, as columnists of whatever, we all come from somewhere.”
Tiffany Chenault, an associate professor of sociology at Salem State University, suggested that as with other facets of American life, white journalists have a sense of entitlement that could hinder their reporting.
“There may be different angles that an African-American [or] a person of color may take because they have a sense of understanding of that situation their white counterpart may not have,” Chenault said. “And so I think that one in itself is powerful and that is the perspective that is needed.”
Donovan Maurice Avant Harrell is a student at Florida A&M University, who participated in the 2015 Student Projects at the National Association of Black Journalists annual convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This podcast was produced through the National Association of Black Journalists Student Projects and appeared on The Monitor, the association’s student newspaper.