By Jason Fuller:
Joe Torres is a columnist and activist within Washington D.C., and through his employer Free Press, he fights relentlessly for media reform and equality. Joe’s approach is centered on creating a culture of media awareness. He was inspired to write “News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media” based on a conversation he had on a train ride with his co-author Juan Gonzalez. This book is brilliant due to the emphasis placed on people of color having the opportunity to produce their own stories.
I was moved by Joe’s commentary as he discussed the significance of people of color serving in the media/journalistic world. During our meeting Joe stated that the media feels comfortable viewing African Americans as either thugs or athletes. Those African Americans who do not fit this cookie-cutter image are forced to fit-in, or are seen as a problem. As an African American male, I found myself acknowledging the power imposed on my community by producers of media.
I initially wanted to be a sports journalist since African Americans (specifically males) had success in this area, and I felt that it would be my greatest opportunity to flourish in journalism. However, after being exposed to the wider world of journalism, I realize that sports reporters are boxed in and expected to superficially cover athletes and dehumanize them. I now realize I was limiting myself by conforming and attempting to advance into this approach to journalism.
Looking back, I’m not sure if I intentionally did this because Black males are seen as too aggressive and thus, taking a sports reporting career path was more passive, non-threating or quite frankly more realistic. At this very moment, I can say with conviction that sports reporting is my first love, and I would love to work in this arena of journalism. However, because of my experience at Generation Justice and Joe Torres’s wisdom, I know that working toward critical news is the ultimate achievement.
As it stands now, sports’ reporting is now secondary in my life; but after speaking with Joe, I find myself daring to be a hybrid. Why can’t I do in-depth critical sports corresponding in my spare time? Why can’t I report on the passion, resiliency, and tenacity I saw in my teammates? There are important stories waiting to be told, like shining a light on the NCAA’s exploitation of student-athletes.
Meeting Joe Torres was a treat because, as a male of color, he has been able to do ground-breaking critical work while paving the way for the next generation of media makers and journalists. Joe’s message gave me a strong sense of peace — no longer do I feel like I have to accept opportunities in the “safe” zone. Because of this, I see myself being a critical journalist who will not acquiesce when met with adversity.