A Conversation Worth Protecting
By Amanda Paule
An open and inclusive global conversation can thrive only with the preservation of press freedoms.
*This article is sponsored by the Syracuse chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists.
Even as a journalism major, I sometimes find it hard to sit down with an article and make it all the way through to the end. Especially as a college student, living in an atmosphere of constant sensory overload, with hundreds of compelling events simultaneously vying for attention. Every day billions of people live their lives, and every day billions of stories come in and out of existence.
Sometimes it is a struggle, and the overwhelming mass of it all coaxes us to stay in our shell, to build a protective bubble and only engage in conversation with voices already familiar to us.
But just when it is all overwhelming and we want to shut down, to retreat into ourselves, that is the moment that journalism matters the most. Journalists do the job that holds our communities together, venturing out of their comfort zones and immersing themselves in the global culture. Journalists do the job that many of us would find uncomfortable and overwhelming: common feelings that only make the job that much more crucial.
Journalists listen to the voices in our local communities. Journalists listen to the voices in our international community.
On a recent reporting excursion, I traveled to Québec to engage in conversation with the francophone community there. One woman, a friendly high school teacher whose first language was French, asked me a question that I continued to think about for the rest of the trip: how can you write about the minority without living among us, among our culture? She did not ask me this in a hostile way or in a tone that suggested I had no place there. She was simply expressing her love and appreciation for her culture, and her worry that it wouldn’t be done justice by an outsider looking in.
I think that this is a relevant worry. We need to focus on increasing diversity in newsrooms, so that people of different backgrounds and races can bring nuance and greater understanding to stories of their own communities. There is no question of the danger in cultural appropriation and intergroup bias.
I also think that we need to consider our global community with greater inclusivity. We should strive to learn about the cultures of other countries and peoples, to break out of our own bubbles and hear the voices of different perspectives. We should strive to create a global community with fewer obstructive borders, so that it is not a question of insider versus outsider but a unified and complex human story.
Journalists are at the forefront of this story. Organizations like the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) work on both national and regional levels to foster open discussion on diversity and to protect international journalism. Not only is it about encouraging Americans to look outside of our borders, but also about letting international voices in. It is about fortifying press freedoms worldwide, to fight for a global community where journalists can raise the voices of communities without fear of punishment, imprisonment, or death.
Global journalists are the reason that, with a quick online search, we can learn about communities worldwide, regardless of borders. Even when local atmosphere and responsibilities take over my focus, I can focus in peace knowing that there are journalists and organizations working to continue the global conversation. The missions of global journalists to raise the voices of those who need to be heard and of organizations like SPJ to protect international press freedoms inspire me to break out of my own bubble, to take part in the breaking down of borders and the formation of a global community.
Sometimes it is overwhelming, the worldwide conversation that happens around us every day. But SPJ reminds me why that is a conversation worth having, and a conversation worth working to protect.
Amanda Paule is a freshman studying newspaper and online journalism and French and Francophone studies at Syracuse University.