Acknowledging Our Full Selves

SRCCON as a space for all that informs your journalism

A bird’s eye view of the SRCCON closing talk. (Erik Westra)

During SRCCON, we get to spend two days with a few hundred of our friends and colleagues learning new skills, debating tough questions, and sharing meals and games together. The SRCCON schedule is built to make space for connection and collaboration, to make sure that your needs as a human are taken care of so you can discuss what animates and challenges your journalism.

We know that each of us brings our identities, our experiences, our communities with us into this work. We work to make SRCCON a space where folks can feel able to explore how our selves shape our journalism, and find support from one another. And this year, with a relentless news cycle and threats to our communities and journalism itself, we needed space to acknowledge both the pain and the power we carry with us.

At the close of SRCCON 2017, I took a few moments to thank everyone who made this time possible and to acknowledge the parts of ourselves that drive us in this work, and the responsibility we have to support more inclusive, responsive journalism. Here is the transcript of my closing remarks:

Thank you all so much for an amazing two days. We definitely keep your days jam packed, and yet the openness and thoughtfulness appears to be unflagging. Maybe the caffeine helps? Thanks, to Charisma for staffing the coffee+tea station.

Thanks as well to our incredible stenographers, Norma, Stan, and Chase, who help us involve remote participants and make our sessions more accessible. Thank you to all of the volunteers, venue staffers, and the entire SRCCON and OpenNews team (Cordelia, Dan, Erik, Erin, Kate, Lindsay, and Ryan). So many tiny details come together to make SRCCON possible and they keep track of them all. Including, what to do with the leftovers—our chefs arranged for the items we’re able to donate to be transported to the Harbor Light Center in Minneapolis.

Thanks to all of our sponsors who allow us to keep ticket prices low and offer childcare (thanks, John S. Knight Fellowships), that transcription (thanks, Facebook), and both participant and facilitator scholarships (thanks WordPressVIP and the New York Times). We’d also like to thank Conde Nast, our lead sponsor. They came to SRCCON with several members of their team for sessions and office hours, with a generosity that really made this happen. They returned alongside the Knight Foundation and Community Partners. We’re also grateful to sponsors Google News Lab, Alley Interactive, Mapbox, Vox Media, Star Tribune, MPR News, and BuzzFeed News. Thanks for the support that let us organize the past two days.

Thanks to our wonderful facilitators who devised games and templates and questions and activities to help us problem-solve and explore some of the trickiest challenges we face in journalism and tech.

And thank each of you for being here. For bringing your curiosity and perspectives.

Part of what we aspire to with SRCCON is to create a space where we can participate as our full selves. Where you don’t have to feel like it’s necessary to leave parts of yourselves at the door.

I was thinking about where the name SRCCON even comes from. It stands for the “source” as in “view source,” looking at the code behind a web page. Being able to access those building blocks of the web has been transformative for many of us, and for this industry. But it’s not just code that drives our work.

It’s us.

It’s who we are and how we got to this point. It’s not just some knowledge of that programming language or a gift for searching for answers to error codes. It’s ourselves. Our many communities. Our experiences, our identities, our backgrounds—these aspects of ourselves are not only what allow us to do this work, but what drive us in this work.

These building blocks of our work come from our strategies for survival and resilience. Our ancestors and our chosen families. Our communities—within and outside of journalism.

Within journalism, there are leaders from the Asian American Journalists Association, National Association of Black Journalists, and National Association of Hispanic Journalists all in this room. I am so grateful to you all for having created these spaces for decades for journalists of color to be able to come together and share more openly. To take on the work of making newsrooms more inclusive that many of your white colleagues have ignored for far too long. With SRCCON, we seek to remedy those gaps. To be a space where—we hope—no one feels alone or like you have to educate someone else about the validity of your experience. That privileged colleagues can learn how to take on the work that people of color have largely borne alone. Thank you to Sydette and Gaba for leading a session on exactly this topic and how we can all better understand our privileges and support one another.

And we need that support from one another. We’ve always needed it, but this year, man.

The last year has been a challenging time for many folks in this room. We went from the intensity of a presidential election year to unrelenting uncertainty. You may have family members who have have been affected by the Muslim ban. You may fear for the health and safety of your friends and family members, their ability to access health insurance, their ability to be protected and not harmed by the police. You may have been affected directly by these events yourself. You may just desperately need a nap. You may be wondering if journalism is even what you want to be doing anymore, given all of this. You may, as Yvonne and Moiz led us in conversation last night, be wondering what is even the purpose of this journalism. You may already be all too familiar with these issues, because you know they’ve been in place in the US since long before January or because you’ve experienced them in other countries.

And that’s just this year. Two years ago, we were here in Minneapolis. And at the closing of SRCCON, we were had just found out about the SCOTUS decision on marriage equality. It felt like, at long last and with much more work necessary to do, progress on equality was heading in a positive direction. And yet, a year ago in this city Philando Castile was killed by a police officer who was afraid of a Black man. A Black man who had been pulled over 46 times, as reported by our colleagues at NPR, including Alyson who is here today, a reality of his everyday life that derives from a white supremacist system that fears and devalues Black life.

Every day, many of us face this alternating between celebration and encounters with systems that harm us. We vacillate in this exhausting state. Oh, and it’s also our job to do the reporting on these events.

Who benefits from us pretending none of these events matter to us and influence us? Affect our work?

Powerful interests benefit.

The status quo, which is rapidly worsening from it’s already inequitable state.

It’s certainly not us who benefit from this pretense. Or our communities. Our work.

But, when we create space for our identities, our curiosities, our full selves, we all benefit. Through events like this we are able to create time and space to answer fundamental questions about our work that Livia reminded us last night: who do we serve? Who does this work help? Why do we keep doing it? The communities that have shaped our lives help us to answer those questions.

We may reach different conclusions on those answers, but we need these opportunities to pose and consider those questions and build new strategies and tools to do this work. To do this together with colleagues, peers, friends, committed to supporting one another.

That’s why at OpenNews, our purpose is to support your connection with one another. We seek to support you. To help you access the resources you need, that tool or tech to ease your workflow, to draw on the strength and wisdom within each other. We’ve got your back, so you can continue supporting each other.

  • We bring people together at events like this one and online.
  • We share strategies and tools through our website Source.
  • We support other ways for you to connect with each other from scholarships to an always open inbox for advice on everything from hiring to facilitation.

And up next, we have even more:

  • The news nerd survey, which some of you helped shape at the SRCCON here in 2015, returns this year! We’re partnering with Google News Lab, and Jenn, Soo, and Liam are helping us craft a survey that helps us better understand this community, and the supports you need to keep doing this work. In two weeks, we’ll send out the survey and can’t wait to see your feedback.
  • And at the end of this year, we’ll have another opportunity to come together at SRCCON:WORK. We know that supporting people can have a transformative effect in newsrooms. With SRCCON:WORK we’ll have space to delve even more deeply into many of the conversations you’ve had over the last couple of days — about collaboration and team work, hiring and career growth, mental health and self care. As we grow in our careers—and deal with many challenges inside and outside of the newsroom—we need to have space to talk about how we, with all of our complexity and wonder, persevere in this work. How we exist as journalists and friends and make the journalism our communities need. At OpenNews, we know that if we’re going to transform newsroom code and culture, we need to invest in the people who do the work. So we’ll gather in Philly on December 7+8. Throughout August we’ll have a lot more to share about SRCCON:WORK and hope to see some of you and your communities there.
  • To keep up with SRCCON:WORK and even more opportunities to nurture our full selves — stay tuned to our email list. Plus we are always open to any ideas you may have, so feel free to reach out.

Online and in person, we have a lot of different ways to support each other—from NICAR-L to all of the Slacks for news nerds, journos of color, and lonely coders, too. We’re here to help keep supporting one another.

Because, there are powerful forces aligned to keep us apart—to even keep us disconnected from facets of ourselves. We can’t fight these forces without taking steps that intentionally build open, welcoming spaces, that share resources and ideas, and that sustain a network of brilliant folks driving journalism forward.

Thank you for bringing your whole selves and your experiences to these two days. Thank you for allowing us to join you in this work and to walk into the Minneapolis—sun, rain, maybe even snow—together feeling renewed, invigorated and emboldened as one community to go create the kind of journalism that pushes for equity in every community we touch.

Each year, SRCCON’s themes evolve, from not just showing your work to truly sharing it with stronger documentation. To the fact that the people behind the code drive the ingenuity we see in journalism tech. This year, I spoke about what drives us, what shapes our work and our obligation to support each other. And how that support includes the responsibility of white people to join the people of color who have been working for decades to make newsrooms more inclusive, representative, and responsive to the needs of our communities.

It is only together that we will be able to sustain journalism as an institution that holds power to account and improves, rather than imperils, our communities. Together, with our many perspectives and opinions, identities and life experiences, we form a community that shares and learns together, that raises each other up and cares for one another. We put care into our two days together, and support you in taking the sustenance you need into your work throughout the year.

I am grateful to be able to do this work with all of you.




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