Media Rise concluded its 2015 festival with a daylong Forum on Saturday, October 3 at Impact Hub. The intimate discussions focused on how media can build trust through individual voices and community systems. The first of three sessions explored media’s role in shaping identity around race and gender, with the following panelists:
- Tasneem Raja, Senior Editor, NPR Code Switch
- Laura Donnelly Gonzalez, Founder & COO, Latinitas
- Chenjerai Kumanyika, Assistant Professor & Journalist, Clemson University
They discussed how they use media to broaden the conversation about underrepresented communities.
Shifting conversations through “code switching”
NPR’s Code Switch blog encourages the “uncomfortable, messy discussions about race, ethnicity, and culture,” according to its Senior Digital Editor Tasneem Raja. Established in 2013, Code Switch challenges conventional news reporting and showcases journalists who are as diverse as the audiences they wish to reach. “We reach a broad audience that is not necessarily a white audience,” Raja said.
The blog, plus its social media outreach through Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook, offers perspectives that differ from NPR’s typical news coverage, with a lot of its stories created in response to the question: “What do we find confusing or infuriating about the way that this story is being discussed?” Raja said.
Grieving and healing through livestream
Journalist and Clemson University Assistant Professor Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika said he is “putting the love back into livestream.” The artist, activist and scholar discussed his experiences using livestreaming media to cover protests and events, especially those related to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Dr. Kumanyika believes that mainstream media too often focuses on the negative elements of protesting, while livestream coverage can offer a more authentic, raw and uplifting view of grieving and healing communities.
“Mainstream media has constructed protests as sites of rage but I’ve experienced them as sites of healing,” Kumanyika said.
His advice for using livestream to broadcast news includes listening and learning from the audience, facilitating conversations to engage the community, and creating lasting memories for future social justice movements.
Kumanyika also encouraged journalists to have empathy for blending roles and responsibilities to allow for greater social impact. “You can be a scholar and journalist and citizen and a person who’s trying to heal, all at once,” he said.
Advocating for girls and women
The Austin, Texas-based online magazine Latinitas was created in 2003 out of a need for greater coverage of the Latino community outside of mainstream media’s focus on immigration and crime. Its Co-Founder and COO Laura Donnelly Gonzalez discussed why the online magazine is a “pipeline for thousands of girls to be advocates.”
The online platform is a safe space for Latina girls to discuss issues affecting their community, connect with mentors, and engage in leadership development opportunities. Gonzalez is ready to expand the platform to give a voice to young Latinas nationwide.