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What does journalism have to do with social justice? It depends on who you ask.

There are some journalists who embrace the idea that they are changemakers, change-seekers, activists. But for the most part, professional journalists believe it’s their job to stay out of the fray and report the facts without taking sides — a fair position and a valuable one, considering the divides we collectively face.

Regardless, news and information — the kind that’s verified, backed up with receipts and wrung out of the hands of the powerful — is essential to any fight for change or justice. So even those reporters who see themselves as outside the struggle do their work within the arena of democratic participation. They serve us, and we need them.

Free Movement Conference

This weekend, News Voices will explore the connections between journalism and social justice at the second annual Free Movement Conference in Wilmington, North Carolina. Modeled in part on the annual Allied Media Conference in Detroit, Free Movement aims to provide a gathering place for people fighting for social justice in the South.

We’re collaborating with Free Movement’s organizers at the Wilmington-based nonprofit Working Narratives to program a track on journalism and media justice in the South.

It’s a stellar lineup, with workshops and discussions to appeal to organizers, journalists and anyone who cares about their local communities. It’s also a way to bring conversations about journalism and its role in our society into an organizing space, which journalists don’t usually enter.

We hope reporters and organizers, and those who embrace both roles, will come away with a clearer understanding of how we can work together to hold powerful people and institutions accountable.

Here’s what’s on the agenda:

  • MuckRock, one of the leading open-government organizations in the country, is holding a workshop called “Putting Public Records in Everyone's Hands” to train people on how to access information under the Freedom of Information Act.
  • Kirk Ross, a longtime North Carolina journalist who reports on the state legislature for Carolina Public Press and Coastal Review Online, offers “How to Keep an Eye on Raleigh,” a workshop for anyone who wants to keep tabs on the North Carolina General Assembly.
  • Free Press’ Joseph Torres, co-author of News for All the People, joins North Carolina Central University Journalism instructor Brett Chambers and The Carolinian columnist Octavia Rainey for “The Legacy of Black Media in North Carolina,” a session connecting the past to our visions for the future.
  • Truth, Fear and the Wilmington Water Crisis” brings together journalists Lisa Sorg of North Carolina Policy Watch and Adam Wagner of StarNews with Wilmington-based activist Dana Sargent and Melanie Sill of the Democracy Fund to talk about the importance of facts and evidence in struggles for environmental justice and accountability.
  • Anti-Oppression Media Strategies Toward Transgender Justice” offers an incredible array of perspectives: Lewis Wallace of Scalawag, Reverend Debra J. Hopkins of Sisters Together and Reaching, Gabrielle Bellot of the Literary Hub and Kyle Dacuyan of PEN America, a national organization promoting freedom of expression.
  • Free Press Organizer Alicia Bell (pictured on left with me) shows community members, organizers and advocates how to build ongoing transformational relationships with local media with the workshop “Who Is Your Media Strategy?
  • Student journalist Azuree Bateman and Professor Tamara Jeffries of Bennett College offer a how-to workshop for citizen journalists.

And that’s only the journalism track: Free Movement 2018 also includes sessions on ending mass incarceration, shutting down the school-to-prison pipeline, arts activism, grassroots fundraising and more.

Activist and journalist Steven Thrasher will give the keynote “Black Liberation Is Impossible Without Ending AIDS,” and Paul Wright, editor of Prison Legal News, will lead sessions on prison-phone justice and ending prison profiteering.

Check out the full schedule and purchase your tickets here.

If you can’t make it to the Port City, follow along on social media with the hashtags #fmconf18 and #newsvoices. News Voices will be doing a Facebook Live with conference participants at 5 p.m. EST on Sat., March 24, on Free Press’ Facebook page.

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