Journalism, social justice movements, & innovative strategies

This year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is particularly poignant.

Some argue protests in Ferguson, Mo. — and, subsequently, across the nation — have created a resurgence of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. This rebirth has been electrifying — especially with an appropriately timed release of the Dr. King biopic Selma, which recounts the historic march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, the state’s capital. The demonstration resulted in the Voting Rights Act of 1964. Not only has the film received critical acclaim (and *only* two Oscar nominations), but it has effortlessly connected the movement of today to that of the past.

For months, protesters have called for an end to police brutality and racist practices. But this isn’t a new phenomenon; it has been going on for decades.

In The New York Times today, hidden on page A11, is an article noting this strong similarity in movements, particularly in Ferguson. Despite the NYTimes’ changed structure to put “digital first,” as noted in their leaked Innovation Report, this article does not differ much from its online counterpart.

Sure, there are a few links embedded in the story, and the photo’s bigger with better quality, but otherwise, aside from its social media presence, not much is different.

But does it need special, and possibly unnecessary, additions online? I’m not entirely sure, especially as other mediums on the Times’ website, like Upshot, are used for this purpose.

What couldScreen Shot 2015-01-19 at 10.52.54 PM be added to the online story, however, is a reference to this Upshot data analysis of the continuous racial divide in America. This piece, published at the beginning of the Ferguson protests, gives the reader a host of charts and analysis of the racial differences. And it’s still relevant: Upshot re-hashed the piece on their Twitter today.

Though charts can be printed, this piece gives the reader a non-traditional piece of journalism to look to. Each reader has a different learning style, and it appears visual data is on the rise in popularity.

“To become more of a digital-first newsroom, we have to look hard at our traditions and push ourselves in ways that make us uncomfortable,” the Innovation Report reads (58).

Just as the revamped Civil Rights Movement has used mediums of social media to fit the modern era, so has The New York Times. However, despite a reworking of goals and ideologies, both journalism and social justice movements will have the basics of their founding: 700-word articles with little digital elements and non-violent protests advocating for change, respectively.


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