My timeline has been flooded with videos and tweets of protests from the Black Lives Matter movement — as it should be.
We are once again reminded with the recent murder of George Floyd and so, so many others that this country has a race issue — something that I, as a white person, am privileged to forget when there aren’t ongoing protests.
I follow many other journalists on Twitter, and I’ve noticed that many haven’t spoken about the movement itself, but only the hardships journalists are facing covering protests. They have been targeted by the police, tear-gassed and shot with rubber bullets. See the tweet that made me realize this below.
Note worthy: Journalists who view themselves as practicing “journalistic objectivity” won’t denounce overt acts of violence by police, but allow themselves to comment on any incident involving other members of the press — regardless to how small. It’s self serving and it shows.— Abraham Gutman 🔥 (@abgutman) May 31, 2020
The harm and discrimination many journalists have encountered during these protests is incredibly sad and alarming — but it is not comparable to the struggles black people have faced and continue to face in this country. The story is bigger than a journalist being harassed by the police. Share your experience, but focus on the bigger issue at hand — to many in law enforcement, black lives don’t matter.
At first glance, I can understand why a journalist might refrain from vocally supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. We are taught to be objective. To observe, not to voice our own thoughts about those observations.
I took COMM409, a media ethics class, with the wonderful Shaheen Pasha this past spring. We talked in depth about what happens when journalists cover protests.
As someone who wants to be seen as an objective, reliable source of news, it might hurt your credibility for some to say, “Yes, I am covering this Pride Parade, but I also vocally support the movement.” People might suspect your support for the movement will taint your coverage.
But I almost think this is an excuse of types. Journalists need to be held accountable for their beliefs and their coverage, all the same. We are humans. We have thoughts and opinions, just like anyone else. We are taught to give up the right to share opinions as journalists. This is fine — I will almost never use my social media platforms to promote political causes.
But here’s where I think the perspective on the Black Lives Matter movement gets a little distorted. The belief that black lives are valuable shouldn’t be an opinion — it should be an accepted fact.
Why is it “objective” for a journalist to say that an arrest of another journalist was unjust but subjective to comment on violence against protesters?— Abraham Gutman 🔥 (@abgutman) May 31, 2020
too many on my TL are making the story about themselves. Obviously there is room for those who were really hurt (IE Ali Velshi and that poor photo who was partially blinded) But they're framing the stories as these are their issues, not the issues of the protesters— Andy (six feet away) (@andy_witz) May 31, 2020
There is nothing subjective about human rights. There is no need to tell “two sides of the story” when it comes to racism. It’s a journalist’s job to tell it as it is — one “side” of these protests, many members of the police force and their supporters, are inciting violence and racism. The other “side” are black Americans who are being murdered for things like alleged forgery or existing in their own homes.
That is the fact of the situation — black people are dying unjustly at the hands of law enforcement. If it’s not a gun to the head, I don’t care what “threat” someone poses to an officer. There is no excuse for non-violent calls to end in death.
Someone will inevitably say, “Well, okay, but all lives matter. So how are you going to just voice your support for black lives?” To which I have attached a Tweet below that breaks down this question more eloquently than I can:
Here’s all lives matter explained to the people that can’t be bothered reading into it. pic.twitter.com/vCfJAnxgxt— #HERNAMEIS RUTH MATAAFA (@karlzz96) May 30, 2020
We have an issue in this country. Writing that, I am appalled at how much of an understatement it is. America was built on oppression, and it shows in the fact that the public might think saying “Black Lives Matter” makes someone a bad journalist.