Beyond raising public awareness of long-lived racial injustices, the 2020 Black Lives Matter demonstrations had another salutary effect: They created an opportunity for journalists to dive deeper into social justice issues and grassroots movements. The story was simply too big to ignore and would not go away, requiring journalists to look for new angles and details to keep their reporting fresh and relevant.
As a result, journalists focused on more than just the headcount, explained the underlying grievances, and even put occasional property damage and violence in perspective. Seemingly they had become aware that an entire movement, campaign or action does not deserve to be disparaged for the actions of renegade and outside actors, including provocateurs planted by those who oppose the movement.
Chronicling Civil Resistance is also available to the public at large—it’s a free download on the ICNC website—and that includes activists and organizers, who may find it helpful in two ways: (1) to share with local journalists; and (2) to sharpen their media strategies by preparing to provide the insight and the answers our guide encourages journalists to pursue.
After all, both sides bear some responsibility for the inadequate and sometimes off-base coverage that has vexed the civil resistance community for so long. It is up to all of us to try and change that.
Deborah Mathis is a senior journalist. Previously as ICNC’s Director of Communications, Deborah developed, executed and coordinated ICNC’s communications, marketing, and media relations, working in collaboration with the organization’s staff and advisors. She helped develop the Minds of the Movement blog and served as co-editor.