How do we support those living in the shadows – for whatever reason –to tell their stories to affect social change / How can we empower those affected by an issue/problem to participate in journalism about that issue?
Melvin “Buddy” Baker
Our small group explored these questions through a dialogue that focused on our own experience with specific stigmatized populations: the homeless, mental health patients and undocumented immigrants in the United States.
How is community created among those people? Is information disseminated well enough within the community?
There are two levels of communication:
- Communication within that particular community: A primary level where your group communicates with each other. The needs of that community then must be conveyed to the larger group.
- Outside communication: We need information about who we are to go to those people who might be allies, or have resources. Information on the primary level can produce change within the community to elevate their situation.
The dialogue continued. Tamara and Victoria highlighted that people living “in the shadows” must be tapped into a network of people dealing with the same issues in order to create a trusted community that can, in turn, become empowered. Tamara said, “When you have people who feel marginalized, and you don’t know there are other people who are dealing with the same thing – when people come out of the closet, then you have the opportunity for them to feel safer to engage with an ally population. More voices make a bigger impact. The issue is knowing each other. How to get people to understand that they’re not the only one. My perspective as a journalist, as an ally, I’m the one who says: you’re not by yourself. Here are our issues, let us disseminate our issues and make a complete circle.”
What are ways journalists can aid these groups is to amplify their message.
Victoria asked, “What is the access to media for these groups?” Online multimedia, for example Youtube videos, is a way to express something through the means that community has. It boils down to making sure that there are avenues of communication and having access, while having a sense of what kind of tools of communication are available to that community. You have to be more elemental – like posting at a bulletin board at a homeless shelter.
Buddy, who volunteers with homeless in helping them put together a resume, mentioned that it’s important to help these groups realize their own assets and skills. “Lots of times they realize they’ve done more things than they’ve thought about, they have more skills than they’ve thought about.”
How does a journalist cover “the invisible” with respect to that community?
“To me the basic responsibility of covering the invisible comes down to the reporter. Regardless of community outreach, if the reporter thinks it’s an important issue – go out every day and make yourself known, and they will call you.” Buddy
“There has to be trust created.” Tamara
“Sometimes they might distrust you because of prior experience with a reporter.” Buddy
“What we’re trying to do is to make sure that people have a sense that this is a big issue. If you’re willing to tell your story, you can help people understand that there are ways to help, ways to heal. Because access is cheap or free, there’s nothing to stop the people in the community from communicating from their own situation. So it’s not either or, it’s both. What we see is people who are communicating within the community can create bigger stories. “ Tamara
We conclude that we’ve have the means to come together, as journalists, allies and “the invisible,” and activate. New media not only informs, but activate us to do something.