The Intersection of Journalism and American Politics

At the 2018 Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, The Dallas Morning News Mexico Border correspondent Alfredo Corchado shared his own immigration experience and how that allows for the honesty of his storytelling. One statement from his panel that stood out to me was when he said that he could not compare his own immigration story to the stories of children today.

This statement, though simple and almost obvious, profoundly summarizes America’s recent rapid reversal of its years of social progress. The United States set a historical precedent for being a progressive entity founded on the ideals of personal liberty. Until 2016, the nation had almost always worked towards social change, guaranteeing more rights for more of its citizens. Since Trump’s election, the media has brought more attention those in support of inhumane immigration policies, both pre-existing and new.

At the conference, Lindy West, opinion writer for The New York Times, took the stage for the keynote address at the Literary Lights dinner on Saturday night and immediately exposed the underlying sociopolitical themes of modern journalism. She spoke unapologetically about her own abortion and made known the necessity of having such conversations in today’s political climate. Basic human rights are on the line every day, especially with Justice Kennedy’s recent resignation and the possible reversal of Roe v. Wade.

When introducing the topic of abortion in her speech, West acknowledged the stigma surrounding the words she was about to say. The division in the room was physically apparent as journalists squirmed in their seats, but our table of high school girls sat in absolute awe and adoration as she spoke words which seemed unspeakable. She broke the tension with a comment which would encapsulate the importance of honest journalism in America today: “You can’t fight for something you can’t say out loud.”

The sheer bravery and candor with which West spoke represents the best of journalism in America today. Personal stances on the hot-button issue aside, West’s integrity and journalistic strength demanded to be acknowledged. Even without having read her works, anyone in the audience could easily tell she was an authentic writer.

Today, voices like Lindy’s and Alfredo’s are necessary because Americans cannot trust that their constitutional rights will be guaranteed tomorrow; for many, these rights have already been taken away. The United States is standing at a point of uncertainty, and it is our responsibility as a nation to decide how to stop this cycle of dehumanizing human rights.

Honesty is essential to the success of American democracy. Immigrants reporting on immigration, women who have had abortions speaking out about abortion, and the voices of others who have gone through experiences that are now politicized allow the American public to view these issues through a human lens rather than a partisan one.

Movements such as #MeToo and #ShoutYourAbortion create safe environments in the digital age for the specific form of storytelling that creates tangible change. The ripple effect of new stories and perspectives being brought into the world may not end Trump’s tyranny, but it does stifle it.

While the future of America is unknown, the future of journalism was present at the 2018 Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference. I was one of eight high school journalism students who received the opportunity to attend the conference and spend the past week at UNT putting together multimedia projects to report on the event.

The eight of us are all from different backgrounds and areas in Texas, but we are united by our love of journalism and passion for honest storytelling. A recurring theme amongst our projects is the desire to uncover the truth, and that authenticity will drive the future of American journalism. Honest storytelling will save us.

Best quotes from 2018 Lit Con

The Mayborn High School journalism camp has been amazing. Spending time with people who have the same love of journalism I do, being around some of the most well-known minds in journalism, and getting to spend a lot of time (including eating and sleeping) at a college campus was an eye opening experience that excites me for my future. I learned how important the truth in journalism is, especially in a time when fake news is prolific, and particularly inspiring were the two keynote speakers Friday and Saturday night at the convention. Diana B. Henriques and Lindy West are ambitious, courageous women, and as they shared their stories about their lives in journalism, I found myself scribbling down more and more quotes. So here’s a treat for all those who missed it: the best quotes from the weekend with some photos from my journey along the way.

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My Post (1)

 

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Plus a bonus quote from my amazing workshop leader Leah Waters, said while we were discussing how to report on the Mayborn conference:

 

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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.