The Ferguson debate continues, and although I don’t think I can add anything else to the conversation, I do think Tufekci’s article on Medium raises another issue. Yes, Ferguson has become the poster child for race relations and the role of police in the United States. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in itself, but now the city has an international reputation of being a high-crime area of unrest with a violently racist police force. That is such a shame because I know there is more to that area than the negative connotation it receives from the media. Behind the crime, violence and injustice lies a city of everyday people. For every racist police officer, there’s also a person trying to reach across racial boundaries. For every crime committed, there’s also someone working to keep Ferguson’s youth out of jail. Ultimately, Ferguson is the place these people call home.
So, when the media only pays attention to an area when something bad is happening, I think they do a huge disservice to that community. As journalists, we are charged to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but parachute crime reporters aren’t doing that. They’re focusing on the bad when there’s a lot of good happening as well.
This mindset has become particularly important to me as I’ve tackled my job at the Durham VOICE this semester. The area we cover is no stranger to crime and poverty. But yet the people living there still call it home. And the residents continually tell us how they wish the media would find some positive things in the community. That’s the duty we’re charged with at the VOICE. The residents don’t want to hear anymore about the bad stuff happening; that’s old news to them. They want to read about the positive things happening.
That’s how you serve a community and do the people justice. Yes, the crime stories need to be told, but let’s balance it out with some positivity. Ferguson is so much more than snipers and tear gas.