From the state house to our city streets, Bay Area journalists are responding to the dramatic news exploding out of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter uprisings. At the same time, the heightened awareness to matters of health, racism and social inequality tied to the twin crises has pushed journalists to confront their own vulnerabilities and shortcomings. These were the top insights that leaders from the Bay Area’s most prominent nonprofit newsrooms shared during a recent conversation hosted by Renaissance Journalism. Conducted via Zoom due to shelter-at-home restrictions, it offered a rare opportunity for the journalists to set aside deadlines and share experiences.
The horrific killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers and the COVID-19 pandemic’s ruthless attack on communities of color has galvanized people’s attention to the vast inequalities and systemic forms of racism that permeate American society. Rev. Al Sharpton declared at Mr. Floyd’s funeral in Minneapolis that there is hope for change because the swelling protests show that it is “a different time and a different season.” With hopes that we can move from anguish to action, Renaissance Journalism is taking new steps to help journalists tackle inequality, systemic inequities and racism in America, which is at the heart of our mission.
Lisa “Tiny” Gray-Garcia is a writer, poet and activist who describes herself as a “poverty scholar” because she and her mother used to live on the streets. She has a pointed message for both journalists and U.S. Census bureau officials concerned about how so-called hard-to-count demographic groups may get overlooked by—or simply choose to evade—the 2020 U.S. Census. “I don’t trust corporate or independent media because our stories are told about us, without us,” said Gray-Garcia at a media briefing organized recently by Renaissance Journalism. “I don’t know that my (Census) information won’t become a part of a body of information that is going to further enhance my criminalization, incarceration or citation, the way it happens every day.”