The Pursuit of Truth – Generation Justice

Traditional schools of journalism teach a set of principles that ethical journalists must adhere to; the most important of these is a commitment to the truth. Yet, in this school of thought, the path to truth is through impartiality. Journalists are taught that in order stay committed to the truth, they must remain impartial and have emotional distance from their work. But is this really possible for human beings, especially when the story involves human tragedy?

We all have inherent biases that break through every thought and conversation. We are not always conscious of these partialities, and so we cannot always keep them at bay. The manner in which we have been socialized will impact the way we choose to frame a story. Impartiality and emotional distance will only be realistic in journalism when robots are reporting for CNN. So I ask you, how can journalists be committed to the truth if they are not honest with their audience about who they are and what they believe?

Esteemed journalists Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel address the issue of impartiality in their book “The Elements of Jouralism.”

“…Being impartial or neutral is not a core principle of journalism. …impartiality was never what was meant by objectivity. …the critical step in pursing truthfulness and informing citizens is not neutrality but independence….”

Independence is something that all journalists who are employed by mainstream media outlets lack. Their stories, and the slant of each story, is impacted by the editor, who is impacted by the owner of the outlet, who is probably Rupert Murdoch. Independence is what gives a journalist the freedom to pursue the truth; a freedom that cannot be encroached upon by the political leanings of the owner of the newspaper, network or radio station that employs said journalist.

This “freedom of the press” is vital to the existence of democracy. But how does one grapple with a situation in which the press has no freedom from the corporation or media mogul that owns them. In this reality, stories are skewed or not told at all because, while journalists must attempt impartiality, the people who have hired them have agreed to no such thing. How can there be “freedom of the press” when there is no freedom within the press?

Since entering college, I have been trying to decide if I will pursue journalism as a career. I have searched beyond my work with Generation Justice, to glimpse into the mainstream. Throughout this process I have learned a lot about journalists. Mainly, I have learned that I do not want to be one, at least not in the traditional sense. I crave a different, enlightened sort of journalism, one that has begun to appear in the form of outlets like Generation Justice and Colorlines.

As a Generation Justice youth producer, I have been taught to use my journalistic skills to better my community. I strive to do this by telling those stories that are ignored or misrepresented in mainstream media, and by bringing my own expertise as a young Chicana and Nuevo Mexicana into my work.

I have found that journalism, in our form, is much more than just interview skills and technical expertise; it is an art, and a delicate one. When we go out into the community and ask to tell others’ stories, there is an exchange of trust that must take place. This trust is built off our commitment to the truth, but also on our ability to honor the human beings in front of us, whose stories we are taking.

We strive to create media that has a reciprocal relationship with the community. Our purpose at Generation Justice is not to just take, but to give back. Our work is motivated by a love of community that drives us to produce media that contributes to the greater good of the people around us.

In this way, we differ from many media outlets. We embrace this difference. We are the future journalism: a politicized, conscious, collective that promotes intergenerational learning and the empowerment of groups that continue to be disenfranchised by the mainstream: youth, people of color, women, the queer community, those differently abled, and immigrants, etc.

At Generation Justice, we are storytellers. We are owned by no corporation, but are governed by our commitment to social justice, our community, and our integrity. It is with these three values that we pursue the truth.