Last week's insurrection was infuriating but not shocking and has only underscored the need to re-imagine journalism's role in democracy.
It’s Andrew here. One week ago today, voters in Georgia elected two Democrats to represent them in the U.S. Senate. Later that day, when Congress began certifying the election of Joe Biden as our next president, white supremacists and supporters of President Trump violently stormed the U.S. Capitol.
The images coming out last Wednesday were revolting. But the insurrection didn't really sink in for me until a more complete picture emerged of the preceding days and the aftermath. There's no doubt that this coup attempt was incited by the outgoing President and fueled by fear and racism. Shocking? Not exactly. Infuriating? Yes.
I’ve been reading somanyarticles, both to process and to better understand how this affects my work in the coming years. When I bring my attention back to the realm of what I can do, what is clear is that we each have some power to build a better, more equitable democratic society.
The Agora Journalism Center, which I direct (and is Gather’s sponsor organization), has been going through a strategic re-envisioning process for the last six months. For most of 2020, we've been asking where Agora can best support the journalism industry, academia, and future journalists and communicators both now, and in the future. To address the decline of the public’s trust in our institutions AND one another, we must re-examine America's changing democracy and journalism's evolving role in it. And in the context of Agora and Gather, I'm still processing more questions than answers. Such as:
What would journalism look like if the mission of journalists embraced being stewards of democracy?
How might we address journalism’s history of white supremacy and paternalism and embrace the complexity of multiple perspectives?
Are there models of evidence-based media organizations that are widely trusted?
What might journalists do differently if they had the last five years to do-over?
What does a 21st-century Agora look like to support a healthy and thriving democracy?
I appreciate all of the dedicated journalists working relentlessly to provide both context and complexity to their communities around last week’s insurrection. If any of these above questions resonate with you, let’s talk. My email is open.
— Andrew DeVigal, Gather executive director and director of the Agora Journalism Center
That’s all for this week; we’ll be back next Wednesday as usual.
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