An Outspoken Journalist’s Call to Action

Keynote speaker Lindy West shares the importance of opinion and truth in storytelling

I’ve been told my opinions are irrelevant in journalistic writing, and people only want to hear the facts. I’ve been told this was the way to become successful. I’ve been told a loud and opinionated woman is just bossy and whiny. That was until I heard Lindy West speak.

At the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, West gave a keynote that left people speechless. Her political discussions divided the room and caused many to feel uncomfortable. Here are a collection of her quotes that left me thinking about the impact that storytelling really has.

“When we don’t hear people’s stories, our collective reality becomes warped.”

West conveyed power through her words. I learned that words have the power to educate and change minds. They can affect someone’s political views or personal bias. After hearing Lindy West, I was completely inspired. Never before had I heard a journalist, especially a female journalist, speak so expressively.

“You can’t fight for something you can’t say out loud.”

Being a journalist means using your influence and outreach to voice your opinions. West showed that it’s important to fight for your beliefs. She did so by discussing her own stance and personal experience with abortion. Knowing she would be faced with criticism, she made the conscious decision to still bring up such controversy. West was confident enough to stand before a large audience in a conservative area and still strongly voice her support for abortion. I saw a courageous woman who was determined to spread her truth.

“We can choose to say yes to the truth and protect the truth-tellers.”

West additionally acknowledged how writing should be honest and adds that “dishonesty is toxic.” Storytelling isn’t all fairy tales and fiction. Most of it is actually sharing true stories and expanding movements. Movements such as #MeToo that has brought people together to support survivors and end sexual violence.

“Storytelling matters because once we’ve declared ourselves, there’s no going back.”

In a time where people are full of ignorance and hatred, stories can be our most useful weapon in killing this hatred. The current “Trump Era” has given light to how many people are hateful and have prejudices towards minority groups such as the LGBTQ community and immigrants.

The truth is revealed through stories. It sets the record straight on what people are really like rather than relying on other existing preconceptions. Personal experiences and narratives have a greater lasting impact that can break down stereotypes that were present for years before.

Listening to Lindy West has fueled my love for journalism and given me a new perspective on exactly how important it is for our world to have strong, determined storytellers.