In times of tragedy, we search for news we trust: news that tells us what’s happening and what it means to us .
In Ferguson, Mo. journalists from everywhere are trying to give us this news.
But there is a difference in the news that comes from the people who live up front and up close to the crisis.
Their reporting reminds us of the value of having a voice driven by an informed and inquisitive heart.
Take the St. Louis American, which has spoken for the black community in the St. Louis area since 1928.
Several days into the crisis, the St. Louis American offered this editorial:
“It should also be painfully clear, now more than ever, that this is not a black problem, but a problem for our entire region and others like it across the nation. True, if our community were more organized and voted its strength, then municipalities like Ferguson would not have the utterly inadequate mayors and police chiefs that are making life-or-death decisions today – and making them very badly, with fatal consequences.”
“But these consequences have regional impact. In countless editorials, we have urged our corporate and political leaders to do more to include African Americans in educational, economic and social opportunities for the greater good of the region. Over and over, we have exhorted, our region cannot thrive when we consign so many of our youth to the oblivion of failing schools and poor job skills. Now, more than ever, it is clear that our region needs to do more to include African Americans from the earliest ages for the region not only to thrive, but simply to function peaceably.
“We believe it is because not nearly enough capable people with resources in this region have heeded our plea that we have reached this crisis point of complete breakdown, when the St. Louis region has entered the world’s spotlight, not as one of its great places to live and work, but as one of its war zones. We need peace. But first, we need justice and equity, so that Michael Brown’s death is not wasted, like so many young black lives before his, and with them the future prospects of this region and nation.”
In its news stories, columns, editorials, videos and photos, it has kept its focus on the situation. You hear what the the people of Ferguson are saying and you see from the updates what events are swirling around them and why these matter. This is when an ethnic newspaper does its job and when it is needed to do so.
Here the editor of the St. Louis American talks with Poynter about his newspaper’s coverage.
So, too, comprehensive, updated reporting has flowed from St. Louis Public Radio. It merged its staff last year with the staff from the St. Louis Beacon , an online publication.
Here’s an interview with Margaret Wolf Freivogel, speaking about the difference of the station’s coverage of Ferguson from others. She is the editor of St. Louis Public Radio, and previously was the editor of the St. Louis Beacon.
“Of course. National reporters are writing for a different audience, so that makes sense. But also, the image of St. Louis I see reflected in national media is not the St. Louis I know. For our newsroom, this is more than a big story. This is home. We need to keep reporting on the issues that existed before Michael Brown’s death and that will still need to be addressed when the spotlight moves on.”
What’s the message?
More than ever we need committed and wise local reporting, reporting close to the ground and the heart, reporting that let’s us speak and helps us understand how everything comes together.
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