We Have To Tell The Stories Of This Moment Simply, Accurately, And Completely
When I first started writing this, my focus was on how sheltering-in-place and COVID-19 had upended my Audio Academy experience. That feels so long ago.
Before COVID, I spent my Tuesdays at KALW in San Francisco. They were fairly structured days, guided by the newsroom needs and my assigned tasks. And they were fun. KALW’s news crew is made up of so many fascinating people who shared random stories of wild reporting escapades, surfing, getting tape in a crunch, and Burning Man. We bonded over Chocolate O’Clock and the daily Post-It trophy presentation. And we worked together each day as a team, crafting news features and stories to share with the world. March 10th was my last day there.
In the weeks since, we all shifted, creating home studios in walk-in closets or out of blankets, pillows, and chairs. The news crew ramped up its coverage and that meant many more opportunities for me and the other Academy fellows. But I struggled to take advantage. COVID-19 took people I loved and triggered anxiety that I may never fully process. Thankfully, I was able to make a short news spot each week. The staff has been incredibly generous and kind. But I was weary.
And then, it was deja vu all over again. First, the country learned of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in my home state. Then, Breonna Taylor. Then, the Christian Cooper black birder video. And then George Floyd. The succession of violence has left me reeling and struggling with a sense of hopelessness, anger, distrust, and fear.
I don’t want to feel helpless or cynical. But, how should I respond to the one-two punch of a viral pandemic and systemic racial violence?
“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.” — Toni Morrison
Ms. Morrison’s quote focused on artists, but the truth is this is precisely the time for journalists, even “baby journos” like me, to go to work. We have an opportunity and a responsibility to tell the stories of this moment simply, accurately, and completely.
“We speak, we write, we do language.”
I recently shared the story of one of Oakland’s peaceful protests with our listeners and I am thinking of new features that will tell the story of this season.
“That is how civilizations heal.”
This is an unprecedented moment of disruption and change. Thanks to our Audio Academy training, my colleagues and I are able to document what is happening and help to keep the record straight. Our new normal will be set by what we remember and what we learn.