Video produced by Hope Dector, filmed by Matt Harvey and Drew Precious, and supported by the Barnard Center For Research on Women and the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership. Art by Billy Dee. Music (with permission under Creative Commons license): "Nocturne" and "Smooth Actor" by Podington Bear, "Crystal Life" by Ketsa.
Journalism has always stood for something.
The View from Somewhere: A Podcast About Journalism With A Purpose will be a single-season podcast about people who have challenged and changed journalism in U.S. history. It explores the origins of “objectivity,” dispelling the myth of a single, stable ethic for neutral American journalism through stories about coverage of slavery, lynch law, Vietnam, and the early LGBTQ movement. The podcast features journalists from marginalized and oppressed communities who have pushed back on the “objective” framework, or attempted new ways of thinking about and practicing journalism. The View From Somewhere is based on a book with the same title by Lewis Wallace, which will be published by the University of Chicago Press in late 2019.
The View From Somewhere will be 10-12 rollicking narrative episodes, a combination of historical stories, first-person storytelling, and host Lewis Wallace interviewing smart, diverse guests. The podcast will explore “fake news,” Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, presidential propaganda, coverage of trans people, the changes wrought on journalism by the internet age, and how multi-platform journalism can be used to empower communities and make change. The podcast will also challenge the current models for reporting that depend on exploitation and extraction, insisting that the survival of journalism depends on transforming oppressive power dynamics.
The total budget to make one season of the podcast is around $40,000. We hoped to raise $6600 here, and we exceeded that in less than a day due to generous donations from all over the world!
UPDATE: With your help, we've extended our goal to raising $16,000 in community funding so that we can focus even more of our energy on producing the podcast in the coming months.
In 2017, ten days after Donald Trump’s inauguration, Lewis Wallace walked into a bistro in midtown Manhattan to follow the path of so many journalists before him: he was meeting his boss to get fired. The firing came after a weekend of raucous national protests against Trump’s travel ban against Muslim countries, and just over a week after Kellyanne Conway coined the term “alternative facts” on national TV. Wallace, a daily news reporter in the New York bureau of the American Public Media show Marketplace, had watched these events from the sidelines with a growing sense of fear.
A few days after the inauguration, he took to his personal blog on Medium.com to question whether “objectivity” was the right frame for journalism in the Trump era. Should journalists remain neutral in the face of rising white supremacy and transphobia, and attacks on free speech? Wallace, who is white, trans and queer, wrote that objectivity is a mythology that assumes the neutrality of white, straight men. What if, instead of clinging to the sinking ship of impartiality in journalism, we needed new tools to fight back against “alternative facts”? Could we pursue a framework of fiercely-held values and truly representative newsrooms, alongside rigorous pursuit of the truth? Wallace knew intimately how standing on the sidelines in a debate over your own humanity can be a false choice, even a dangerous one.
Wallace got fired when he refused to remove that blog post, and when he went public with the story, it hit a nerve with the public: He told his story to the Washington Post, the Daily Beast, On the Media and Democracy Now, among dozens of media appearances and public talks. Lots of people, not just journalists, were wondering what it meant to take a clear stand against the normalization of white supremacy, transphobia, and attacks on journalism itself. The question has only become more urgent since then.
In his own search for answers, Wallace turned to history: As he wrote in his original blog, “many of the journalists who’ve told the truth in key historical moments have been outliers and members of an opposition, here and in other countries.” The View from Somewhere is the result of years of research into the stories of these journalists.
Trust in journalists is at an all-time low, but the work of journalism matters more than ever. We know we need new models for thinking about trust, authenticity, fact-finding, and “objectivity” in the 21st century—models that integrate identity politics and diverse experiences, and reject misinformation and disinformation. The View From Somewhere will answer questions about how we got here, and where we might go next.
The View From Somewhere, both the book and the podcast, will help create a journalistic canon that centers people who’ve been excluded by racial and gender gate-keeping. It will also explore models for integrity and truth-telling in the 21st century, in order to inspire a new, diverse generation of journalists whose heroes have been written out of history books. It can help practicing journalists, historians, teachers, and professors to think and teach in new ways about ethical standards, and it will be of interest to a general audience grappling with questions of “truth” and subjectivity in the age of identity politics.
The View From Somewhere will be hosted and executive produced by Lewis Wallace, an award-winning radio and print journalist whose book by the same name about the history of journalistic "objectivity" will be released by University of Chicago Press later this year. He is a frequent writer and speaker on objectivity, representation, and transgender issues in journalism, and he has years of experience teaching and editing broadcast writing. His writing focuses on the stories of people who are geographically, politically, and economically marginalized. Lewis is based in Durham, North Carolina, and he is white and transgender; before he was a journalist, he was an activist for many years around police violence, racial justice, and queer and trans liberation.
Producer Ramona Martinez has worked as a producer on BackStory, the American history radio show and podcast out of Charlottesville, Virginia. She previously worked for NPR’s Newscast, and hosted ‘My Country with Ramona Martinez’ on WAMU’s Bluegrass Country, which explored the historical roots of country music from the 1920s to 1980s. Martinez specializes in synthesizing large amounts of historical information into audio storytelling, as she did in this episode about the origins of objectivity in American journalism, told through the stories of Ida B. Wells and Ruben Salazar. She and Lewis met each other through NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen after he noticed their shared interested in critiquing objectivity through the lens of power and oppression.
If we raise all the money we're hoping for, we'll also be hiring artists, musicians, guest editors, and folks to help with promotion. Our entire crew is based in the U.S. South.
The podcast itself will include the voices of Sarah Alvarez (Outlier Media), Bettina Chang (City Bureau), Alicia Bell (Free Press), Steven Thrasher (Northwestern University, U.S. Guardian), Meredith Talusan (them.us), John Biewen (Seeing White, Duke Center for Documentary Studies), and many other brilliant journalists and thinkers!
We are working to raise a total of $41,200 between now and October 2019 (projected launch date) to cover: producer, host, and editor pay, production overhead and travel, developing an accompanying curriculum, and some outreach and promotion costs. We are seeking institutional and individual sponsors and foundation support, and in-kind donations of space, time, and expertise that might help us launch and promote the podcast. The View From Somewhere is currently seeking partnerships with online or print publications as well as podcast distributors. We’ll also take coffee and cookies!
The $6600 we are raising for the pilot production will cover Ramona Martinez’s producer fee, and the technical costs of tape syncs, music licensing, software, and travel, plus the costs of printing and sending perks. It’s just what we need to get started, but we are people who finish what we started. Lewis Wallace will continue as a volunteer until we are able to procure grants or sponsorships based on these pilots. Please don’t hesitate to contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have ideas for collaboration, sponsorship, or great stories that should be on the show!
Here are more of the gorgeous journalist posters you can get as a fundraiser perk, by our good friend and in-house artist, Billy Dee, also based in North Carolina:
All of these images are available as fundraiser perks to those who give $50 or more, and if you give just $25 we'll send you a beautiful thank you postcard. Each individual poster is available with or without a quote from the featured journalist.
Links for additional background:
More about Lewis: https://www.lewispants.com/
Lewis speaking at length right after he was fired: https://soundcloud.com/currentpubmedia/lewis-wallace-on-getting-fired
Some of Lewis’s recent journalistic work:
More about Ramona:
Ramona’s work on journalistic history:
Risks and challenges
We are professionals with years of experience in radio and podcast production. That said, it's our first time striking out on our own, and it's possible that we will struggle to procure the sponsorships and partnerships we are hoping for to reach our full budget of $42,100. If we can't raise all that money, we're resourceful: We're already planning for trades, in-kind donations, and skill-swaps with other editors to make sure that all the work gets done and the podcast gets released. Once we have pilots and a basic plan to move forward, we can depend on volunteer labor if we need to to get the project out. But your support will help us keep it super professional!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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