Journalism and Social Justice — Wesley Lowery (Washington Post)
Pulitzer Prize winner Wesley Lowery recently stopped by the University of Maryland to discuss his new book They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in American’s Racial Justice Movement based on his coverage of police violence against African-Americans at The Washington Post. The project called “Fatal Force” won the award for National Reporting in 2016.
Here are four key ideas about journalism and its role in social justice gathered from his talk:
“The advancement of social media and technology gave the people of Ferguson the power to decide that this was a story.”
Lowery says that the only reason Washington Post was drawn to the situation in Ferguson was social media reports persisted for days.
“Objectivity does not exist. The fact that you’ve decided that this is news is subjective. News is a series of subjective of decisions.”
Journalism ethics have come under the spotlight in light of recent reporting on racially motivated attacks by police in the US. Lowery believes that journalists should worry less about so-called objectivity and more about achieving social justice.
“I am less concerned with objectivity and more concerned with fairness. I operated under the principle of no surprises; I always allow all parties to respond and make sure to make that call.”
Lowery feels that as long as all parties are given to opportunity to respond to a matter then he has done his job, pointing out that sometimes authorities will strategically drag out cases to achieve minimal backlash.
“If we pay money, billions in tax, and government does not deliver, it is the job of the media to ask why and to apply political pressure.”
He says he has a responsibility as a journalist to ask what it will require to resolve a situation, and that, more often than not, government has the biggest responsibility as the authority elected to govern society.