After watching the ONA 14 Conference via livestream today, a few things clicked for me. Wesley Lowery made a valid point about the dangers of things like Ferguson– journalists flock in a feeding frenzy of press in an attempt to grab the sexy scoop and then bolt. Once they’ve picked cleaned the bones of the shock of the event, they scatter, leaving the heart of the story intact and untouched. The panelists made mention of several other events that were shaped by the poor state of race relations-Jena 6 and Hurricane Katrina among them.
Both of these incidents struck a chord with me– they happened in my backyard, in my state. I felt the effects of Katrina, but not to the degree that those in New Orleans did. The same thing that happened there is happening in Ferguson. Reporters are parachuting into an area that they’re effectively clueless about to cover a specific incident. They’re looking at the creature while being blind to its habitat.
I tweeted about this, but I’ll expand on it here: once reporters flew in and made their soapbox speeches about the tragedies and brutalities, once they got footage of them wading in murky waters or being hit by tear gas, they dropped out. There’s nothing sexy about watching water recede or glass windows being replaced. Once the tear gas and water dissipate, the city is apparently dead. Once Anderson Cooper pulls a kid out of the water or Geraldo Rivera delivers his angry soliloquy, it’s over.
That being said, the national coverage is a good thing. It draws attention to the issues and needs of an area and pulls it into the national spotlight, where greater amounts of aid can be found. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t insulting or harmful.
This issue is unbelievably hard to think about. How can you avoid being a part of the story if you’re being treated just like the protesters? If you’re being threatened? If you’re risking yourself for the story?
I’ve got no ideas. This is a bit deeper than 300 words can express.