SOMETIMES, it’s best to sit back and listen.
The very rapid series of events and policy proposals in the wake of George Floyd’s killing present a challenge and opportunity for journalists not seen in 50 years – the last time a wave of massive unrest combined with real, lasting social change unfolded across America.
For people like me, accustomed to using our platforms to publish our opinions on matters both large and small, the temptation is great to weigh in on this matter as we would any other.
And to a certain extent, I’d be abdicating my responsibility to not do so at all.
Then again, as a middle-aged white male editor in one of America’s whitest industries, the media, it’s more important than ever to have some self-awareness, and some humility – both often rare commodities in the media world.
One of the most common tropes in American political life is the tendency of white people to make everything about themselves, especially when the topic is the challenges that people of color face.
There’s a whole genre of debate on Twitter about this all-too-common phenomenon; I doubt this tendency is going to stop anytime soon. The fact that it usually comes from the best of intentions doesn’t make it any less frustrating or often counterproductive.
Now is a better time than any to redouble efforts to give others a voice and a platform on these crucially important and riveting global movements, for racial justice in general and police reform in particular.
Bluntly stated, we’re going to expand our scope to make sure we don’t fall victim to the same trope ourselves.
As the local alt-weekly, one of our main missions is to provide an alternative to the mainstream; that’s literally what the “alt” means, ever since our type of newspaper was created during that wave of social and political change and upheaval in the late 1960s-70s.
So as editor here, I see my most important role in this debate as facilitating the inclusion of points of view and ideas which are harder to come by elsewhere locally, and to do so in a more thoughtful and expansive manner than most media outlets are capable of in an era of clickbait and sound bites.
It’s not that I don’t have opinions on this myself – believe me, I do, lots of them – and it’s not that I’m taking a neutral stance.
But sometimes, the best thing you can do is sit back and listen.