Based on the format of these questions, I asked if the writer was Black or a person of color. While it’s true that a reporter of any race could fail to do their journalistic diligence, I doubt that a Black reporter would have asked me to explain the basics of the idea that Black people exist in the future. I then asked if the writer knew who Charlene Carruthers was. He did not.
Charlene Carruthers is the founder and former executive director of BYP100, my political home. Her first book, "Unapologetic: A Black Queer Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements," has quickly become a staple for those of us in movement work, or those that want to report on it, who want to get it right. In a talk on her recent book tour, she shared a bit of knowledge that I decided to also share with the writer: Just because you are passionate or interested in something, doesn’t mean you should necessarily be leading the work that needs to be done.
I shared this in hopes of getting the writer’s cogs turning as to why, and should they be the person writing this article? How would the writer use their voice to amplify the purpose and mission of Blackspace?
Instead of my offering having its intended effect, I received an email informing me that the writer had chose not to publish the article based on my discomfort with him writing the piece as a white man.
I’m confused for various reasons: I’m confused how educating this young, budding reporter on the impact of voice, the importance of perspective, and inquiring his reason for writing the piece morphed into me feeling uncomfortable with him writing the story. I’m particularly baffled since the last thing I said to him was I’m interested to see how the article turns out.
I simply raised a point for an aspiring reporter to consider when writing his story. I, unfortunately think fear is the real reason why the writer decided not to publish this article. Not fear of me, or of some imagined repercussions but fear he wouldn’t do the article justice. And, to be frank, that’s a valid concern. Fear, while a normal human reaction, has no place in responsible reporting or good journalism.
A question for a writer to consider when doing their job should not prevent them from doing so. I understand that he may not be aware of the nuances of movement work, but it is vital for journalists to educate themselves as deeply as possible in the subject matter they are reporting and to heed advice from those who reside within the communities being covered. The consequence of not doing so could easily become a case where good intentions aren’t good enough.
The good news is that the reporter is still young, and fear can be conquered. I’m hope that the writer has a plethora of mentors at the DTH and elsewhere that will encourage him to lean into discomfort and guide him on lessons in discernment. Once the fear is overcome, the reporter should still consider Charlene’s words. That being said, when he has figured out his role and responsibility as a reporter on doing a profiles on organizations that don’t center his experience, he knows where to find us.
University of North Carolina ‘14