Solidarity Journalism

The Solidarity Journalism Initiative helps journalists, journalism educators, and journalism students improve coverage of marginalized communities. Solidarity in journalism means that journalists stand for basic human dignity and against suffering, and is practiced through newsworthiness judgments, sourcing, and framing that center the lived experiences of people subjected to unjust conditions. The decision to report – or not report – on these conditions inherently leaves neutrality behind.

With solidarity techniques, journalists do what the most celebrated journalism has always done: insist on representing truthful narratives that accurately convey lived experience, amplify sources who have the most insight into an issue, and convey outrage at people’s dignity being disrespected.

How Do Reporters Practice Solidarity In Journalism?

In practice, enacting solidarity in journalism means:

  1. Deciding that ongoing social injustice is newsworthy.
  2. Representing the perspectives of people subjected to conditions not of their own making (not simply to showcase their emotional pain, but to amplify their views on what should change).
  3. Moving away from “isolated incident” or “exceptional individual” stories to accurately account for systemic barriers that prevent people from ending their own marginalization.

The Solidarity Journalism Initiative regularly collaborates with journalism organizations, journalism schools, and independent journalists. The initiative holds free workshops on a range of issues; past workshops have focused on reporting covid-19’s disproportionate impact on marginalized communities, covering elections in solidarity with voters, framing and naming the January 6 insurrection, and covering anti-Asian racism. In addition, the Solidarity Journalism Initiative provides public-facing media analysis and holds individual consultations to help journalists incorporate solidarity into their work.

To join an upcoming Solidarity Journalism Initiative workshop or to request an individual consultation, please email Anita Varma at anita.varma@austin.utexas.edu.

Press

The Engaged Journalism Lab ǀ “Want to support accurate journalism? Fund solidarity reporting.”  ǀ July 28, 2021

Reynolds Journalism Institute ǀ “Solidarity reporting moves away from elites and to people subjected” ǀ June 7, 2021

Humanitarian News Research Network ǀ “Q&A With Anita Varma About Journalism That Builds Solidarity” ǀ June 15, 2020

CNN ǀ “It’s OK to not be OK right now.” A month of grief, worry and frustration” ǀ April 19, 2020

About Dr. Varma

Dr. Anita Varma leads the Solidarity Journalism Initiative. She is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Media at UT Austin, where she focuses on media ethics, as well as a senior faculty research associate at the Center for Media Engagement. Varma’s research, teaching, and public engagement all focus on the role of solidarity in journalism. She is on the board of the Society of Professional Journalists (Northern California Chapter), the advisory board of The Objective, and the vice-chair of the Media Ethics Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC). Prior to UT Austin, she was the assistant director of Journalism & Media Ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics (Santa Clara University), where she started the Solidarity Journalism Initiative. Varma received her Ph.D. in Communication from Stanford University, and her dissertation, Solidarity in Action: A Case Study of Journalistic Humanizing Techniques in the San Francisco Homeless Project, received the inaugural Penn State Davis Ethics Award. Her scholarly work has been published in Journalism StudiesJournalism Practice, Journalism, Routledge Companion to Media and Poverty, and A Handbook of Global Media Ethics (SpringerLink).