I remember the first time I saw a video of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Had a Dream” speech. I was probably seven years old at the time, but I remember something inside me was intrinsically drawn to mass mobilization; how the great divide between races, classes and socioeconomic status could galvanize change.
As a grew older, I became fascinated with the protest movement of the late 1960s against the Vietnam War and the counter-culture that spoke volumes about the state of America at the time. I’ve always identified pretty strongly with the hippie movement in the way that I’ve always thought human love and respect could conquer all.
Well here I am in the midst of a revolution. I find myself at an odd crossroads where even if I wanted to, I couldn’t participate in the protests. I am a journalist, not an activist.
But yesterday I was supervising the newsroom when a Concerned Student 1950 protest thundered through a student dining hall full of prospective MU students and their families. I received a video from one of my colleagues and sent a reporter to cover the demonstration. The blood rushed through my veins, my adrenaline skyrocketed. I picked up the phone and dialed any source I could think of — we had to get this story.
Fast forward five hours of tireless reporting and confirmation. I sat down with the two reporters on duty to write, and there was a strange moment when I realized I wasn’t really thinking anymore — I was just doing my job. I went into a detached auto-reporter, breaking news mode, but in retrospect the weight of the words I wrote spoke to an audience in volumes.
It was not my voice in the story nor the voices of people I necessarily supported. It was the voice of a concerned student group and a massive group of students on campus who felt as if they hadn’t been heard. By truthfully writing down what people say or do, we as journalists move the masses more readily than any protest ever could. We open up a conversation that is sometimes so obvious and so necessary that everyone joins in. We try our best not to spin it in one way or another, we allow people to provide their commentary and we provide context.
Yesterday and today, the Missourian’s website had more traffic than it ever has before. National news organizations have been calling the newsroom every hour to ask to borrow our content. My friends have been doing stringer work for the Washington Post and the New York Times.
I used to think nobody paid attention or cared about the news. I used to think it was useless to be a newspaper journalist because nobody got their news from us any more, but here we are, at the forefront of a national conversation. Here we are, breaking the news that the MU football team won’t play a game until the UM System President is fired. And everyone in the newsroom is there for it because we know people care.
This is my favorite type of mobilization — the kind that gives people a voice.