'Black On Campus' Series Documents The Stories Of Student Journalists
There is a new series currently running in the magazine The Nation. It’s called “Black on Campus,” and the stories are coming from ten students across the country, including one from Wake Forest University.
The idea behind the project is to not only document the black experience on college campuses, but it’s also a training ground for future journalists. WFDD’s Bethany Chafin spoke with Dr. Sherri Williams, one of the directors of the program, who says she hopes this will help create more diversity in the media landscape.
On the purpose of the "Black on Campus" program:
With this project we're not only just giving the students an opportunity to develop their skills, but we're also giving them an opportunity to be able to be in connection and in community with some of the top editors and journalists in the country...what we're doing is not just producing these stories but we're also trying to have this as a professional journalism experience and get students ready to be able to have the skills to tell solid stories about diversity and inclusion in this country.
On what this series means at this particular cultural moment:
So what I think is important at this particular moment is that we really take a look at these students' stories and experiences and see that some of the same things that black college students and generations before them experienced are some of the things that black students are experiencing now, like the levels of discrimination and prejudice and how that is manifesting itself still exists. But there are some differences, because we know that since people like Charlayne Hunter-Gault and James Meredith integrated the University of Alabama and the University of Mississippi in the 1960s, that there were, of course, some clashes and problems that they faced. And what these students [today] experience is not necessarily mirroring those experiences, but some of the same racism still exists...we think that as a country we have come so far, and there has definitely been a significant amount of racial progress. But when we think of this generation, we think of it as being post-racial and that just certainly is not true. There is still a level of interpersonal racism that exists that students experience on campus. And there is also systemic racism that exists. So part of the goal and this project is to not only just let people know that this is happening but it's to actually really document it.
On how social media is changing what it means to be a black journalist:
It has in a sense made a lot of people in the black community journalists. So when we think about these movements that have happened in this country in the last five years, social media is a way in which activists have been able to use these social networks as a megaphone to be able to talk about some of the things that they feel are unjust in society. So we think of Ferguson and the ways in which citizen journalists were able to just directly communicate with the public and let them know what was going on right then and there. So one of the things that social media has done for black citizens is to allow them to not have to go through the traditional agents, the traditional agenda setters and gatekeepers and just go straight to the public and report what they wanted to report. And for black journalists it has given them a way to amplify their work and to be able to share it through a wider audience.