Cultural institutions can help probe local issues at a deeper, more emotional level
The week after civil unrest erupted in Charlotte, North Carolina, last fall, after a police officer shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott, an African-American man, while searching for another in his neighborhood, the Levine Museum for the New South brought the community together for a conversation. It was a packed house. “We said, that can’t be it. That can’t be the end to our conversation,” said museum President Kathryn Hill.
Instead, the museum decided to fast-track a photo exhibit planned for 2018, and combine it with voices of local police, protesters, faith leaders and others to create K(NO)W Justice K(NO)W Peace. The exhibit, which opens this week, tells the stories of fatal confrontations involving police in Charlotte and elsewhere around the country. In many ways, it was co-created with the community.
Museums can tell stories with full emotional impact, Hill said. “That’s what I think the arts can bring to the conversation.”
Remember your principles
When Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post, he brought resources to fundamentally change the news organization’s strategy, Executive Editor Marty Baron said. And reporters in the newsroom continually shift the way they report and produce stories as new technology platforms develop. On Monday, in fact, the Post launched a partnership with Snapchat, Baron said.
But the principles of good journalism remain the same, and all Post journalists have to keep an eye on the three pillars when reporting: evidence, and a source’s expertise and experience.
Thomas Jefferson is a beacon in today’s changing media landscape, he said, quoting the former president: “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”
Partnerships can bridge divides
When it comes to systemic issues affecting cities, two community foundations have reached out to new partners to make big strides in addressing them, and to build deeper ties with the community.
In Los Angeles, for example, the California Community Foundation has brought together competing Spanish-language stations for a public awareness campaign to encourage citizenship.
Part of that campaign included creating a rapid-response issues team, so that when news breaks on immigration issues both the media partners, the foundation and community organizations get on the phone, talk about what each side is hearing and look for ways to better inform the community.
“If you’re an undocumented immigrant, you want information. But the biggest thing you want is an ally… an organization that can guide you and give you a sense of protection,” explained Efrain Escobedo, the foundation’s vice president for civic engagement and policy. He describes building trust this way: “I need to know you to trust you…I have to work with you to know you.”
In Chicago, the Community Trust is working with the police department to restore trust in law enforcement, in part by expanding its community engagement initiative On the Table to regular community gatherings they call Peace Circles.
“Because of social isolation in gated communities, we simply don’t know each other. When we don’t know each other, we don’t care about each other. We don’t act,” said the Trust’s President and CEO Terry Mazany.