How To Be An Advocacy Journalist

7 Tips for Success

An image of Malcolm X, full-length portrait, standing, facing slightly left, being interviewed by reporters, 1964. Source: Library of Congress

Malcolm X, full-length portrait, standing, facing slightly left, being interviewed by reporters, 1964. Source: Library of Congress

By Robin Blue

The news is often the first line of defense when issues affecting local communities – like the recent numerous threats against Jewish community centers and synagogues – crop up. In BackStory’s recent episode “Behind the Bylines” we learned how journalists Ida B. Wells and Ruben Salazar more effectively covered their communities, and even changed journalistic practice, through advocacy.

 

Advocacy journalism, however, isn’t a thing of the past.

WHAT IS ADVOCACY JOURNALISM?

Traditional journalists are taught to approach their work with a certain level of detachment from the story and the issues. Advocacy journalism takes a factually yet non-objective view on things that are affecting society. It intentionally promotes a particular cause like environmentalism or racial equality.

YOU CAN DO IT TOO. HERE’S HOW.

In the current climate, you may feel the urge to advocate for a specific cause. You don’t have to be a professional to be an advocacy journalist. You can write your own blog, post to social media or use other online public platforms to share your stories. Here are some tips:

  1. Try coming up with an issue that matters to you, but don’t try to cover everything. Write about the issue or event and the affect it has on the community.
  2. Write about all issues that fall within the bounds of your primary concern.
  3. Think of this kind of journalism as a long-form essay. Though you are trying to promote a cause, do so from multiple points of view–allow your reader to come to your conclusion by providing them with the facts.
  4. Be knowledgeable about the issue and understand it in all aspects – from how it impacts people locally, nationally or globally to who the major players are.
  5. Provide a comprehensive/holistic view of the issue to create better communication and understanding. You alone are not dictating a single solution, but are aiming for change within the community.
  6. Focus on encouraging debate, negotiating a solution, and bringing about positive change.
  7. Don’t forget to celebrate when something good happens!

Remember, if journalism’s first obligation is to the people, then advocacy journalism takes that obligation one step further.

 

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