FACULTY NEWS | August 10, 2018
FACULTY NEWS | August 10, 2018
FACULTY NEWS | August 10, 2018
As a journalist at the Los Angeles Sentinel, you wrote 600 articles in 3 years. What did you take away from this prolific, if hectic, period of your career?
Writing so much in a small amount of time gave me a foundation to write fast, be creative, and make decisions quickly. Though I absolutely detest a deadline, my days as a young journalist gave me the ability to snatch an angle from a story that I thought needed more depth. I got used to getting edited and challenged on work. It also pushed me to read and research more so that I had a better understanding of issues. Through this, I became diverse, and often lived in several worlds with different lenses. I would drive between the beach cities of Los Angeles and Hollywood, to the inner city and then the Valley. This is similar to my mind. I learned that, that was rare, for people to travel outside of the parameters of their social-cultural realities. It became natural and is how I operate. I like traveling between different spaces.
Any memorable interviews or favorite stories that you want to highlight?
There are several interviews I remember fondly and they all gave me lessons. The first was a woman who lived in government housing. I was working on a story around how welfare offices were unfairly displacing families, and in particular black and brown families with subsidized housing. This woman told her story about the duplicitous tactics used against her. Once I finished the interview, I asked to take a picture. The way I instructed her to sit and pose disturbed her to the point that she said that it seemed that I was trying to get a shot that made her look downtrodden. I was floored. Not because she was wrong, but that she called out my exploitative action. I was ashamed. I was months out of graduating from undergrad, and I was immature about power, and power over someone.
"I learned that my role was to tell other people's narratives, and my story did not mean anything when it came to their stories."
From there, I began to think about privilege. As I had been so focused on white privilege until then that I did not consider that this college-educated woman from the inner city could strip the power of someone from the same place. But there I was, feeding into a system that is so cold that those who do the bidding are also being oppressed. From there, I began to engage in discussions with media makers and activists for guidance as a practitioner. Much different than the college theory. But I learned that my role was to tell other people's narratives, and my story did not mean anything when it came to their stories. When I interviewed more famous people, such as Johnnie Cochran, Judith Jamison, Octavia Butler, Nalo Hopkinson, and Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, I saw their interviews as rare opportunities to learn. And the jewels that they showed me carry on today.
You worked for a local newspaper—a format that is slowly disappearing. What do you see as the future of journalism?
Great question. The top journalism organizations are trying to figure out the future of journalism because, really, no one knows. Journalism is simply engaging in experimental practice. Some things work, other strategies do not. Some plans age out, while others fall out of trend and then become relevant again. For sure, journalism is rocky terrain. The future of everyday journalism is a convergence of the old and new. How does it look? That is up to the audience and media producers. What I think will happen are journalism collectives, meaning, media organizations (small and medium-sized) must work interdependently to survive. So, if one journalism entity is good at investigative journalism, and another is known for turning huge data into interactive presentations, then they will produce that part of the publication; they will come together and help each other while also producing local stories.
As content in general moves into the digital format, ironically, print journalism still remains relevant, but in another way. People are beginning to prefer printed books and magazines because holding a book or booklet encompasses a special experience with the text that the digital cannot offer. So print publication moves toward a boutique or cottage activity. While the mass prefers digital content, it simply is not a long-term sustainable practice. What I mean by that is that people's eyes are taking a hit. So, there must be a mixed use of visual, audio and print because the body will eventually demand it so.
Though you did not plan to go into journalism as a career, what advice would you give to aspiring journalists?
All your information is not on Google. Grow your worldview. Being a jerk guarantees a narrow career.
What is your favorite thing about teaching writing?
Seeing the growth of the student, even when they are not aware. At the end of the semester, when they look back, they all have a moment in which they see that their writing developed. They gain a level of confidence around their writing, and overall, their voice.
Describe why writing skills are critical for any field.
At the core of writing is developing your voice from many angles. You need that everywhere.
How does your journalism background help you as a professor?
Journalism is formulaic. The steps-by-steps approach helps with breaking down the science of writing. As well, I believe that students must write from multiple methods. It stretches them to expand their style and techniques.
You've said your mantra is "Academics. Artistry. Activism." How has it been useful/applicable professionally?
It allows me to be more flexible and creative with my approaches. As well, it acknowledges that I am multi-dimensional like everyone else.
Describe what makes teaching at Liberal Studies special.
Teaching alongside professors with such radically different disciplines adds to understanding assignments differently and thinking about the ways that students might approach it. This reflects in the variety of students and student interests, too. I learn from them as well.