On telling true stories

Ever since I quit Twitter, I’ve been having more one-on-one conversations. That was how I ended up talking with Justin of Organization Anti-Social Geniuses about how we each got interested in journalism in the first place.

Why did I get interested in journalism? One of my graduate school professors knew I would be wondering about this one day. Which is why she had us all write “Why I Tell True Stories” on an envelope and stuff it with an envelope about why the heck we first decided to pursue journalism as a career. Mine is a little long winded but it boils down to this: “I believe the best way I can give back to my community it to tell its stories.”

I’ve had to open up this envelope and look at my notes several times over the years. Sometimes it has led me to rethink up my career when reporting has lost its luster and I feel like I’ve fallen away from that initial goal. Now might be one of those times.

Recently I wrote an article for Anime Feminist about Tyler Willis, a vlogger in the Lolita fashion community who got a cease and desist from the second largest anime convention in America because she offended the organizer. Not since my story about My Anime List and Nazis have I had to do so much research, fact-checking, and actual reporting. It was tough. It was definitely out of my comfort zone. But I felt good about it—like this story’s payoff was worth the trouble.

This story has only gotten bigger with Anime Matsuri’s continued attempts to silence Tyler, and Mike at Anime Herald has the follow-up today. We talked about it last week, two reporters covering the same story, and Mike echoed my thoughts on reporting it:

“[The story] made me remember why I love journalism,” he told me in Google Hangouts. “Telling the stories of the people, speaking out for those who would be trampled on otherwise.”

In the past couple of years, I’ve distanced myself from journalism a bit. I have moved on to earning most of my income from copywriting. I have never stopped writing articles, but they tend to not be of the investigative reporting variety. You can tell I don’t normally write about touchy subjects because corporations are usually happy to talk to me for Forbes. I enjoy doing these but I also keep thinking back to that envelope. I don’t want to only share business news.

It’s a little late for New Year’s Resolutions but I realized that in 2018, I want to do more reporting. And I especially want to help marginalized people tell their stories.

I’m grateful to Anime Feminist for giving me a place to do this. That blog is a little over a year old but is among the most-read anime blogs there are, with a staggering reach. More importantly, Anime Feminist’s mission of promoting intersectional feminism in our community aligns perfectly with the importance of reporting on behalf of people of any stripe.

Right now, I’m putting together some guidelines for Anime Feminist about my reporting methods. Things readers can expect me to stand by. Things like:

  • Making a good faith effort to contact every person involved in an article;
  • Consulting a lawyer for stories with a legal aspect;
  • Giving a reasonable amount of visibility to viewpoints I don’t agree with;
  • Taking complete responsibility for my work. In the worst case scenario, prioritizing publicizing the whole truth over my pride if I get something wrong.

For some helpful reading on how journalists create ethical guidelines like these, I recommend checking out the NPR Ethics Handbook, the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, and for some very timely advice, guidelines for covering the #metoo movement.

I know that in the past, people going through critical times have come to mutual friends asking, “Is Lauren a journalist who can be trusted with a sensitive article?” I’m hoping that by practicing fair reporting about tough subjects, I can answer that question through my actions.

Hopefully, you will never be in a situation in which an authority that should know better is treating you badly and you’re hoping to find a reporter willing to amplify your story. But if you are, or you know somebody who is, you can reach me on my contact page.

Lead photo by brotiN biswaS from Pexels