It’s Not You, It’s Me: Journalism and Community Organizing (a blog in which I mix too many metaphors)

It has been a very weird summer filled with a lot of travel, a lot of family time, a lot of writing. After two years of intense study in food systems transformation and social movement development, I graduated in May with my graduate degree from Prescott College. I begin my Ph.D program (also at Prescott College) in Sustainability Education (focusing on independent journalism) in just a few weeks.

I spent a lot of time in my head and heart this summer. With so many plane rides, train rides, ferry rides, and long drives, it’s hard not to do so. As a young girl, I grew up wanting to be a journalist. Specifically, I grew up wanting to be a print journalist. I ended up taking a different route to my current destination in life, though. I went the route of community organizing. Now, that’s not something I’ll ever regret. As an organizer I learned more about the world and who I am in it than anything else might have taught me. I learned a lot of professional skills and learned how to be strong in who I am and how I present myself to the world. I built a lot of important relationships and did good work with good people time and time again. These are very, very good things.

But the journalism dream has never gone away. And I’ve found myself growing cynical of organizing. I ask myself if I really believe organizing works (my answer: yes), if nonviolent revolution works (my answer: sometimes/usually), if I have my own space in the organizing world (my answer: no), if I’m happy with my work as an organizer (my answer: yes, but it’s not a sustainable happiness).

I’ve made the decision to step away from the organizing world. For a long time, I was an organizer who had a familiarity with journalism. These days, I feel I’ve found where I’m meant to be, a journalist with a background in social movement development.

I made the decision to take the next immediate exit off of the community organizing highway early in the summer in order to re-committ to journalism. This has meant putting myself through self-taught journalism school with the help of friends, editors, and partners. Though I’ve worked professionally as a journalist before, this is really the first time I’ve felt confident in my ability to take a seat at the journalism table. It’s a world, I can see a future for myself in. Not a future without potholes, but nonetheless a really fulfilling future.

That’s not to say I’m not committed to the work for social movements. For the last several months, I’ve been developing a program called “Embedded Journalism for Social Justice Reporting,” (the topic of a future blog post). I’m trying to take everything I was fortunate enough to learn in the first decade of my professional career (starting with The Wheel at CSC/SCU years ago) and apply it to my new journalism self.

Right now, this means going back to the beginning. I’m researching and studying journalism, trying to learn everything I can all over again. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to freelance with The UpTake (where I got my first big break many a year ago) and other organizations. My reporting has focused on stories from marginalized communities (my reporting will ALWAYS focus on marginalized communities).  I’m helping to build the new Rizoma Community Media Collective. And I’m trying to pay my dues, while also realizing that I have something important and powerful and needed in the journalism world.

It’s exciting to see this future laid out before me, because I’m building it bricky-by-brick and I believe in it and I believe in me within it.

I take so much of what I have learned in the last ten years with me and I’m hoping to take the relationships and partnerships I’ve built as well. Right now, my plan is to find journalism mentors, to find and use the resources I need to learn more, and to write and write and write (freelancing, blogging, research-writing, thinking out loud). For those of you I’ve worked with as an organizer, please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. For my journalistic allies and partners, I have a lot to learn from you and I am grateful to be doing so.

I’m going to be mapping this journalistic future on this blog and on Twitter and I’m looking for all the support I can get. Overall, however, I sense something really important is coming my way and I’m excited for the new future and the new horizon I’m headed to.

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