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Listen to something a young woman in San Francisco said after the first weekend of protests following the killing of George Floyd.
“I personally have not been able to process everything that has gone on and is continuing to go on. But I will say as someone that is a young black person in their 20’s and has not witnessed the civil rights movement and all these other things that you read about in the history books, it is mind blowing to see all of what we see here but also recognizing now I’ve been compartmentalizing things for years…and it is deeply painful when you continue to tell stories about people who look like you and your family.”
That’s Jobina Fortson, a reporter for ABC station KGO, and she made those comments on the air. The powerful and candid reflections might seem unusual to long-time TV news viewers accustomed to “objective” reporters and anchors who rarely display emotion or never get personal. But the protests against police brutality and racism have touched off a conversation in newsrooms across America about the real meaning of “authenticity” and the evolving role of journalists in the digital age.
I spoke with Fortson’s general manager and six other thoughtful local station leaders about the sometimes tricky balancing act between traditional journalistic standards and credibility on the one hand and the natural instinct of up-and-coming journalists — often encouraged by their bosses — to express deeply held moral convictions, reflect their own life experiences, and