I was skeptical of the Christopher J. Georges Conference on College Journalism upon my acceptance to attend due to past excitements that later turned to disappointments because of so-called experts on topics such as race, diversity and inclusion.
With the conference held at Harvard University, I expected speakers that were thoroughly knowledgeable about their topics of discussion – this time, I was not disappointed.
Two speakers that impressed me the most were Tristan Ahtone and Christine Mungai. Ahtone is the associate editor for tribal affairs at High Country News, and Mungai is the Nairobi-based editor of Africapedia, a web publication that covers key trends and major issues of the news in Africa.
Their focus was on “Decolonizing Journalism”.
They spoke on the importance of rhetoric and of recognizing the assumptions journalist have while framing stories. It is crucial for writers to be cognizant of the biases and prejudices they may have in order to report on a story as objectively as possible.
An example would be providing readers vivid details of atrocities. There is no need to describe what a starving child looks like, or the death of a woman due to gun violence.
“It is like you need proof of their humanity in order to care,” said Mungai. “They shouldn’t need to know every vivid detail to care.”
Each speaker had moments of wisdom that excited and inspired me to advance my career in journalism. Examples of advice that I have now began implementing include examining the infrastructure that can make reporting dangerous and writing about an inefficient system without privileging the suffering.
One quote particularly rejuvenated my passion for educating readers on social issues and disillusioning them to false perceptions.
“It doesn’t have to be like this,” said Mungai. “We just need moral imagination of a better world – empathy, imagination and moral courage.”