Press On (presson.media) is a newly formed organization that developed as a result of more than two years of research and practice focused on finding ways to foster journalism that is responsive to social movements in the U.S. South.
Movement journalism is the practice of journalism in the service of social, political, and economic transformations that make it possible for everyone to have power over the conditions of their lives and communities. We believe movement journalism has the potential to transform relationships between social and racial justice movements and the practice of journalism.
Our current projects include:
A Southern Movement Journalism Reporting Project for 8-10 reporters, launching June 2019
Asset-Mapping of community-centered news outlets throughout the South
The impetus for forming this regional media network lies in the recognition that journalism in the public interest is integral to democracy, but that communities which are struggling to shift power around the biggest challenges to our society––state violence, economic exploitation, disenfranchisement from political participation, climate catastrophe––often do not have access to shaping news coverage and media narratives. In general, the journalism field lacks reporters who focus on grassroots social movements that are led by the people directly impacted by the problems they are addressing, especially LGBTQ communities and women of color. As a result, the social movements we build are not reflected in the public dialogue, and our communities lack information that is critical to affecting change.
In order to address this problem, we plan to create programming to build relationships between journalists, movement organizers, and media outlets; support the career development of journalists and storytellers from communities directly impacted by injustice; help members of movements in shaping media narratives that affect their communities; and facilitate collaboration, resource-sharing, and justice-oriented practices among community-based media.
Altogether, this new center functions to improve community access to producing, disseminating, influencing, and consuming news and information that people who are directly impacted by unjust conditions can use to understand and change those conditions for the better.
This initiative originated at Project South, a Southern movement-building organization. As a fellow there, Anna Simonton assessed the historic and current relationship between news media and Southern social justice movements. Her work culminated in a report, “Out of Struggle: Strengthening and Expanding Movement Journalism in the U.S. South.” The Media Consortium, formerly a network of more than 80 progressive news outlets nationwide, emerged early-on as an important thought partner and resource for this work. Manolia Charlotin served as the network’s Associate Director and helped lead the racial equity strategy within the independent news sector. After the release of “Out of Struggle,” a collective of volunteers formed to convene journalists and organizers at the 2018 Allied Media Conference to shape movement journalism as an idea and a practice. TMC was an important partner in this effort.
The Movement Journalism “track” at the AMC affirmed and built upon emerging ideas about what is needed in order for movement journalism to flourish. It also served as a space to pilot aspects of movement journalism. To support journalists who are directly impacted by racial and gender-based injustice, we recruited a cohort of Southern women and trans journalists of color to attend the conference. We also developed a mentorship program for another cohort of early-career journalists from communities that are mis/under-represented in most media. These programs were made possible by the generous support of Foundation for a Just Society and News Integrity Initiative. The success of those programs serves as the basis for the initial programming of the Southern Center for Movement Journalism.
In her roles as multimedia journalist, curator, strategist, and educator, Manolia Charlotin tells stories that feed spirit and amplifies voices that seek liberation. Over the last 15 years she has helped lead several media organizations and campaigns, including Free Press, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, the Boston Haitian Reporter, The Haitian Times, and Feet in 2 Worlds. Most recently she was the Associate Director at The Media Consortium.
Along with being the founder of the Southern Center for Movement Journalism, Anna is an independent journalist and an editor at Scalawag Magazine. Her research paper for Project South, “Out of Struggle,” coined the term “movement journalism” and helped catalyze efforts toward actualizing this approach to producing news and information. Simonton is the co-author of None of the Above: The Untold Story of Atlanta’s Public Schools (Beacon Press, 2019).
National Program Director, Part-Time
Lewis is a journalist and activist based in Durham, North Carolina, who’s been active in movements for racial and gender justice for over 15 years. His book on transforming journalism is coming out from University of Chicago Press this fall.
Lead Trainer, Part-Time
Mia is the owner and operator of Freedom Lifted, a small business dedicated to providing civil rights tours in the Deep South and social justice trainings for people of all ages. She recently stepped down as the Executive Director of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College.
Jo Ellen Green Kaiser
Director of Operations, Part-Time
Jo Ellen is a sought-after consultant for independent news organizations, providing pathways for economic sustainability aligned with editorial mission. From 2011-2018 she served as Executive Director of the Media Consortium.