A Response to “Why we didn’t report on the Ferguson Recap.”

“My own journalism has been fueled by the passion I have and the people for which I do it. I prefer fair and balanced as opposed to objectivity.”

~Charlayne Hunter-Gault

    In light of the Ferguson grand jury’s decision on Darren Wilson’s killing of unarmed teen Michael Brown on Aug. 9, 2014, America and the world were reminded once again of the value (or lack thereof) placed on Black life. As with any historical event, there has been documentation of the movements throughout Ferguson and the world against racism. It is important to document different occurrences for generations to come, however, it is always imminent that we, not solely as journalists but as people, value empathy and compassion.

As events and actions by people of color on Northwestern’s campus have often been reported on inaccurately and without ethical conduct (i.e. simple factual errors that should be avoided by all journalists, let alone those at an elite institution), by mainstream publications such as NBN and The Daily Northwestern, FMO took it upon themselves to take a step in protecting the organization and its constituents at a Ferguson Decision Recap.

Recently, the Black community and the Black Student Union have been slighted by campus media in an NBN article on the annual State of the Black Union, in which guest Sybrina Fulton talked of the indecent and merciless manner of journalists who report on her family’s tragedy. Among many errors in the article, NABJ-NU’s treasurer Carson Brown was listed as a freshman.

It is out of pure entitlement to, cognizant of the history of inaccurate reporting of marginalized communities, be expectant of allowance into the safe space that was FMO’s “Ferguson Recap,” held on Tuesday, Nov. 25. Beyond this, to publish an “article” patronizing For Members Only is extremely callow.

As journalists**, we should want to tell the stories of others that often go overlooked. Stories need to be told, not only for those affected, but for those who may have no idea of the history taking place. Through accurate journalism, we have been able to keep track of history and the elevation of a nation. We, as journalists, understand this sentiment wholeheartedly. However, as members of the Black community, we have witnessed mainstream media prioritize page views over “integrity,” far too many times. We have seen media professionals prioritize journalistic freedom over democratic freedom…far too many times.

The rhetoric of the “Why we didn’t report on the Ferguson Recap” piece is crass at the least. It is not owed to North by Northwestern, or any outlet, to have access to safe spaces that have been violated before. The Black community at Northwestern, already in a grieving state, is tired of being misrepresented. Our job is to report on and tell the stories of the people. Our job is also to listen to them.

The sorrow, anger and emotion of hurting FMO members is not media capital. Yes, free speech is a constitutional right. But Michael Brown lost his constitutional right to live. Yes, this means NBN or The Daily doesn’t get the story. But it also means the Black community doesn’t get slighted. Yes, it restricts journalistic compass. But not reporting on one event is not plausible cause to disrespect and insolence.

Sincerely,

The executive board of the Northwestern chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists.

**=We implore any and all journalists who may not understand the dispositions expressed in this response, or wants to learn more about them, to be in attendance at our upcoming race event.

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Sybrina Fulton Comes to NU

Northwestern’s Black Student Alliance, affectionately known as For Members Only (FMO), holds an annual State of the Black Union, in which a prominent figure in the Black community is brought to campus to speak on a relevant and germane topic.

This year, with the unjustified summer murders of Eric Garner, Ezell Ford and Michael Brown, the student organization thought it would be appropriate to invite Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, to speak to our community. NABJ-NU had the wonderful opportunity to co-sponsor the event and moderate the Q&A portion. Take a look at the stellar photos taken by Jillian Sellers, a member of NABJ-NU, to see how amazing the event truly was!