Now, we normally don’t publicize things about our personal lives or jobs on Racialicious.
However, this time is a bit different. After appearing on Al Jazeera’s The Stream as a guest, then guest hosting, then subbing for the amazing Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, I finally decided to make it official. I am joining The Stream (American Edition) as Senior Digital Producer.
I am announcing it here is because I want the Racialicious community to come with me.
Over the years (we’re coming in on seven, almost eight for those counting; close to a decade for the MMW peeps) this community has brought some of the most challenging questions to our doorstep in the service of discussing race. How do we understand issues of race when this whole concept is fictional? As soon as you cross borders, racial labels fall apart, but the societal consequences remain. To what extent does colonialism play into our discussions of racism and solidarity? Where does religion and religious identity intersect with race? How do we even craft terms to describe ourselves without further playing into these systems that do not serve us?
I’ve often felt frustrated that we didn’t have the resources to go out and actively source stories. While some members of our community who are journalists have provided us with great pieces over the years, there are so many times when I wished we had a team to dispatch and cover events. And that’s to say nothing of all the media critique we’ve done over the years.
So, when Al Jazeera America came into existence, it became an intriguing opportunity for me – to work with a show already doing amazing, transformative work and to be able to expand that mission with a US based focus.
But it’s important to remember I’m just going to be one voice in the newsroom. A big one, yes – as the Senior Digital Producer, I’m doing some commentary and hangouts as well as the working on the digital architecture of the show. (I’m not going to be on air too often – that’s Wajahat Ali’s job.) But still, just one voice out of about 50. This is where you all can come into the picture.
Our show weighs your voice most heavily – our daily pitch meetings lead with the feedback and requests from the community, before any of the pitches we source. And the more often our community pitches a story, the higher priority we assign to tracking and coverage.
Over the years, you all know that we’ve watched tons of stories come and go, never quite getting the attention they deserved. There’s an entire non-profit dedicated to tracking the black and missing, since black children rarely get airtime on national media.(Gideon Yago covered the strange politics behind the “missing white girl” stories for the IFC Media Project.) The blog world had huge successes with keeping a conversational focus on Trayvon Martin and the Jena 6 until they became national news. But so many more stories fell through the cracks.
I never want there to be another South Philadelphia High School situation. Or take a huge, multi-month national news story about one “Stand Your Ground” related shooting death to unveil the case of Marissa Alexander, or to finally take a critical look at the types of gun laws that have been adopted in some way, shape, or form by half of the states in the USA.
I don’t want What About Our Daughters to become a burial ground for the stories of people like Quiana Jenkins-Pietrzak. Or to have deep conversations about drug policy and rape in the military be covered beautifully in limited release documentaries. I want to see all of us, all of the communities we’re a part of, the ones we call home, to finally be fully and richly covered, instead of begging for scraps from a media that has repeatedly failed to incorporate our perspectives into their idea of “newsworthy.”
Still, it’s a risk. Al Jazeera America is really high profile, and it’s still working out its own voice. And making up Al Jazeera America are a mash of voices and experiences – some of us with really unconventional backgrounds and some people who’ve been in corporate media for their entire careers. Friction is going to happen. Already, people who know I am affiliated with the project have started hitting me up about things they’ve seen on other shows, and not all of it has been positive. But that is part of growth.
What I hope for most is that our audience steps up and demands better coverage, demands what they want, floods the inbox and twitter feed and the phone lines with requests, tips, commentary, and criticism. Because that’s what the show teams and executives are listening to most closely – you. So let them know what you want.
For those of you wondering about Racialicious, things will proceed as normal around here. The editors worked out a system while I did the fellowship that works for the day to day content that frees me up for taking care of the other needs of the site. There’s going to be a bit of crossover – after all, we’re going to see overlap between this community and The Stream‘s, especially as I am being asked more and more for great commenters and bloggers to add to our show – and apparently the line up of other shows! But the focus here will remain on pop culture and racial justice, the focus there will be news.
But if you all just happen to know of a topic in need of attention, give us a buzz. Or hit up Julio (who you may know from Latino Rebels); or Wajahat (the on-air digital producer, most recently at Salon) or the main account @AJAMStream.
We’d love to have you on the show.
E: latoya DOT peterson AT aljazeera DOT net
M: 1 202 441 2158 (This is the work cell, tips only!)