Announcing The View From Somewhere: A Podcast About Journalism With A Purpose

Ida B. Wells image by Billy Dee, quote from “Southern Horrors”

I’m here with an exciting announcement: I’m launching a podcast about the history and future of journalism, and looking for your help!

If you’re ready for that idea out of the gate, sally forth and check out the Kickstarter. We made a video and everything…

Here’s the pitch:

The View from Somewhere: A Podcast About Journalism With A Purpose will be a single-season podcast about people who have challenged and changed journalism in U.S. history. It explores the origins of “objectivity,” dispelling the myth of a single, stable ethic for neutral American journalism through stories about coverage of slavery, lynch law, Vietnam, and the early LGBTQ movement. The podcast features journalists from marginalized and oppressed communities who have pushed back on the “objective” framework, or attempted new ways of thinking about and practicing journalism. The View From Somewhere is based on my book with the same title, which will be published by the University of Chicago Press in late 2019. (It is basically the book version of this Medium post, which got me started on this whole thing. But with a lot more juiciness and history and narrative and exciting people who aren’t me.)

The podcast will explore “fake news,” Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, presidential propaganda, coverage of trans people, the changes wrought on journalism by the internet age, and how multi-platform journalism can be used to empower communities and make change. It will also challenge the current models for reporting that depend on exploitation and extraction, insisting that the survival of journalism depends on transforming oppressive power dynamics. It will be a mix of narrative historical stories, stories from living journalists, and interviews with folks rethinking how we do journalism today.

Excited yet? Give to the Kickstarter.

Journalist Ruben Salazar. Print by Billy Dee.

Background:

In 2017, ten days after Donald Trump’s inauguration, I walked into a bistro in midtown Manhattan to follow the path of so many journalists before me: I was going to go get fired. The firing came after a weekend of raucous national protests against Trump’s travel ban against Muslim countries, and just over a week after Kellyanne Conway coined the term “alternative facts” on national TV. At the time, I was a daily news reporter in the New York bureau of the American Public Media show Marketplace, and I had watched these events from the sidelines with a growing sense of fear.

A few days after the inauguration, I took to my personal blog on Medium.com to question whether “objectivity” was the right frame for journalism in the Trump era. Should journalists remain neutral in the face of rising white supremacy and transphobia, and attacks on free speech? What if, instead of clinging to the sinking ship of impartiality in journalism, we needed new tools to fight back against “alternative facts”? Could we pursue a framework of fiercely-held values and truly representative newsrooms, alongside rigorous pursuit of the truth? As a white trans and queer person, I knew intimately how standing on the sidelines in a debate over your own humanity can be a false choice, even a dangerous one.

So yeah. I got fired when I refused to remove that blog post, and when I went public with the story, it hit a nerve with the public: I talked to the Washington Post, the Daily Beast, On the Media and Democracy Now, among dozens of media appearances and public talks. Lots of people, not just journalists, were wondering what it meant to take a clear stand against the normalization of white supremacy, transphobia, and attacks on journalism itself. The question has only become more urgent since then.

As I wrote in the original post, “many of the journalists who’ve told the truth in key historical moments have been outliers and members of an opposition, here and in other countries.” The View from Somewhere is the result of years of research into the stories of these journalists.

Why

Y’all know this: Trust in journalists is at an all-time low, but the work of journalism matters more than ever. We know we need new models for thinking about trust, authenticity, fact-finding, and “objectivity” in the 21st century — models that integrate identity politics and diverse experiences, and reject misinformation and disinformation. The View From Somewhere will answer questions about how we got here, and where we might go next.

The View From Somewhere, both the book and the podcast, will contribute to a journalistic canon that centers people who’ve been excluded by racial and gender gate-keeping. It will also explore models for integrity and truth-telling in the 21st century, in order to inspire a new, diverse generation of journalists whose heroes have been written out of history books. It can help practicing journalists, historians, teachers, and professors to think and teach in new ways about ethical standards, and it will be of interest to a general audience grappling with questions of “truth” and subjectivity in the age of identity politics.

Ready to support our effort to transform the way we understand and practice journalism in this country? Click to give to the Kickstarter now!

Here’s who we are:

I’ll be hosting and executive producing The View From Somewhere. These days, I’m based in Durham, North Carolina, doing freelance journalism and working on my book. You can learn more about what I’ve been up to on my website.

Producer Ramona Martinez has worked as a producer on BackStory, the American history radio show and podcast out of Charlottesville, Virginia. She previously worked for NPR’s Newscast, and hosted ‘My Country with Ramona Martinez’ on WAMU’s Bluegrass Country, which explored the historical roots of country music from the 1920s to 1980s. Martinez specializes in synthesizing large amounts of historical information into audio storytelling, as she did in this episode about the origins of objectivity in American journalism, told through the stories of Ida B. Wells and Ruben Salazar.

The podcast itself will include the voices of Sarah Alvarez (Outlier Media), Bettina Chang (City Bureau), Alicia Bell (Free Press), Steven Thrasher (Northwestern University, U.S. Guardian), Meredith Talusan (them.us), John Biewen (Seeing White, Duke Center for Documentary Studies), and many other brilliant journalists and thinkers!

Please check out the Kickstarter campaign and spread the word as you are able. And don’t hesitate to contact me at ravenjournalist@gmail.com if you have ideas for collaboration, sponsorship, or stories that should be on the show! We will launch by the end of 2019, and I’ll see you on here even sooner.