The world is a different place than it was when our journalism professors told us to be objective all the time.
Readers are smarter because they have more tools. They’ve seen behind the curtains our magazines and newspapers used to erect, and they know we’re just people: opinionated, often mistaken. And we choose which information to share and which to withhold.
As storytellers, this is our privilege and our power. With that power comes complex responsibilities.
We’ll always be duty-bound to accuracy. But as journalists like Glenn Greenwald have pointed out, often we’re doing a disservice to our readers by attempting to conceal our biases. In political and local reporting, maintaining an agnostic view and quietly striving to keep person bias in check is sometimes useful and necessary. In international reporting, where topics of human rights are more pervasive than county tax levies, it’s much more common for journalists to take a sober but definitive stand.
We always have a responsibility to amplify the voices of the marginalized. But it’s up to each journalist to decide how much opinion is too much and where is the line between reporting and activism, analysis and editorializing.
New realities are affecting that calculation. People are more complacent. The issues are more complex. The problems are more dire. They seem so insurmountable that it’s easier to tune out. And we have more distractions in our lives to help us do so.
In light of this, journalists have a unique vantage and a new responsibility. It’s not enough now to bear witness and go home. If we want our stories to inspire a response, then part of our job is to help people understand what their response should be.
If water insecurity is a problem in parts of the global south, then we should encourage readers to check out groups working on solutions. If our governments can alleviate the refugee crisis in Europe, then we should tell our readers where to petition.
When I finish reading a powerful narrative, I often feel angry and energized. It lasts about five minutes. Then it goes away, and I forget. My new goal in my journalism is to prevent those five minutes of intense conviction from going to waste.
Our new newsletter, Narrating the World, is one way to promote positive action through Latterly, a magazine that began as a “why not?” in my living room and is now a growing publication of original, in-depth reporting with more than 300 paying subscribers.
Latterly was always about being thoughtful, earnest and unwilling to turn away from atrocity — but optimistic about our collective future. We’re optimistic because we believe the Latterly community is a force for good.
We’re about being better global citizens. We’re about getting to know our foreign neighbors a little better, what Alain de Botton called “humanizing the Other.”
We’re about understanding the sticky concepts of global governance and development because these have a real impact on everyone — from those of us in wealthy countries whose taxes will fund ambitious programs, to the poor and vulnerable who make none of the decisions and bear most of the consequences.
We owe it to our planet and to ourselves to understand what’s happening and who’s affected. Not through numbers. Not through pundits. Not through dime-a-dozen think pieces.
But people. Real, honest-to-God people showing you what it means to be a human right now.
That’s what Latterly is for.
Let’s get started.
can we really end poverty?
Sustainable Development Goals — jargon less boring than it sounds. This is the U.N.’s plan to end poverty, end hunger, attain world peace and 14 other specific dreams by 2030. Countries approved the goals today. While they may seem unlikely, some experts believe goals like this work, to a degree (video below). The key is that we in rich countries have to hold our governments to their commitments.
pope in america
A National Geographic photographer explains what it’s like to photograph the pope (below). The New York Times has live updates of the pope’s visit to New York, where he told the U.N. the poorest suffer most from environmental abuse. He was in Washington yesterday, where he name-dropped a known socialist and made John Boehner cry.
human rights ≠ saudi arabia
If you were going to appoint a country to head an important human rights panel, which would you pick? Probably not Saudi Arabia, whose government regularly executes people by beheading. On Monday, the U.N. tapped Saudi Arabia — thanks to a silly rotating mechanism — to head an important panel in the Human Right Council. The executive director of U.N. Watch called it “scandalous.”