Why I Think Soledad O’Brien’s ‘Black in America’ Lecture Is Worth It

Soledad O’Brien, an Emmy-award winning journalist, is asking Stony Brook University to join the conversation about modern racism and police brutality in America during her “Black in America” lecture on Monday, Feb. 16 in the Staller Center for the Arts at 6 p.m.

As part of a month-long tour to universities around the country, O’Brien will be using the momentum from the police brutality controversies in Ferguson and Staten Island last year to propel her audience into an analysis of racial profiling, arrest quotas and crime reduction tactics used by the police. Her website for the tour details how she will use shocking videos, like the cell-phone footage of Eric Garner’s death, among others, to bring the urgency of the message straight to her audience.

Soledad O'Brien will be coming to Stony Brook University on Feb. 16 as part of her "Black in America" tour to universities around the country. Photo courtesy of Flickr.
Soledad O’Brien will be coming to Stony Brook University on Feb. 16 as part of her “Black in America” tour to universities around the country. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

This issue is especially important to O’Brien as a Long Island native because this region is still known as one of the most racially segregated in the country. And our next door neighbor, New York City, is home to more racially segregated communities that are subject to police brutality and racial profiling.

This national conversation isn’t over, so I feel like it’s still pertinent that we as journalists cover how these large issues and debates unfold, even on our own campus. And the conversation has moved online as the new generation takes an active role. #BlackLivesMatter, the social media slogan that was trending during the protests that occurred after the Ferguson ruling last December still gets tweets on its feed everyday.

I want to cover this story as a mobile, online journalist because that is how this story is being covered. If my goal as a journalist should be to engage with other people on Twitter, to exchange information and create a community with my readers, then I should channel the power that social media has already proven itself to have as I report this story.

I also want to cover it as a mobile journalist because it will render a lot of opportunities to do so effectively. As O’Brien shares her shocking story, her quotes can easily be tweeted and compiled to make writing a story later very easy. I could also take a video of some of her most compelling statements to put up as a part of a story. As I mingle with people before and after the event, I can get quotes and chat with them about how they feel about this topic. With the meet and greet that O’Brien will have with the crowd after her speech, it will be easy to snap some pictures and chat with her a little more about her presentation.

The biggest reason I think this story will work in an online format, is because it’s worth it. With some stories, like a local government meeting, it can be difficult to live tweet or take video because the content just isn’t that riveting that someone would want to see it and read tweets about it in real time. But this topic has everyone’s attention.

The court of popular opinion has shown us that police brutality and racism are topics that demand attention and as a journalist in 2015, what better way to deliver a story with such magnitude than to give people a taste of what it is like to be there as it’s happening.


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