Indianapolis Star’s new public engagement editor wants good trouble
“What is a public engagement editor? Sounds like an agitator title.
In the sea of well wishes and congratulatory tweets I received after announcing my new position, this one stood out for me. It’s probably because the author meant agitator pejoratively and thought he would offend me. He wanted to intimidate me. He wanted to agitate me.
It did not work.
Instead, I smiled as I thought of the word agitator and how it applies to my new role as IndyStar’s public engagement editor. I smiled realizing that I had barely set foot in the door and was already doing my job.
My role is to shake things up and shake up the status quo – in our city and in this newspaper.
At the behest of former Congressman John Lewis, I am here to create “good trouble” in our city. My job is to go out there to the different communities in Indianapolis and learn what stories we miss, what we’re doing well, and what we need to do better. We want community participation in this newsroom to be at a higher level. Editor Bro Krift and I are reinventing this post, and we have great ideas, but we need you!
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We need you to tell us what’s going on in town. We really do.
According to US Census data, Indianapolis has a population of over 800,000. That’s a lot of stories. We want to hear the big stories, and we want to hear the small ones – especially the ones you think are too small to tell in a mainstream way. I’ll tell you a secret: these are often the best stories. We need you to actively participate in changing our city for the better — not for the better. I want better than better.
And we want diversity. Our demographics change as our city continues to grow. Indianapolis is approximately 29% black, 3% Asian, and 10% Hispanic or Latino. We need these stories. This document should reflect those stories. But it’s not just about racial or ethnic diversity. We need stories about people with different abilities, ages, political views, religious views, gender identity and sexuality. Let’s not forget that there is intersectionality in all of this. No one is just one thing. We are several things wrapped in one package.
This brings me back to the tweet.
It was obvious that the author did not know me. He should have googled me before sending that tweet. If he had, he would know that I am not easily intimidated, otherwise I would not have taken this position. He would also know that I am not new to this field. Prior to this job, I was editor of the Indianapolis Recorder newspaper, where I wrote a weekly column that got few, if any, hits. Plus, he would know that I have over 25 years of experience in this industry. I’ve been a journalist all my life, so I have extremely tough skin.
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And I believe in what we do. I believe that writing has the power to change society. It’s how I know how to make the change. I am a firm believer in the principles of journalistic ethics and integrity, and I believe that many of us enter this profession because we are idealists who believe in the importance of making this world a better place. Yeah, that sounds hokey, but I had to accept the fact that I’m a little nerdy sometimes and that’s okay.
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Like I said, I’ve been in this industry for a long time. Although I am not originally from this city, I have lived here for a long time, having left my hometown of Muncie shortly after graduating from Ball State University in the 90s. I am a mom who has raised two children in this town. This is my home, and I’ve seen it change significantly, for good and for bad.
So I think that word agitator suits me just fine. The more I think about it, the more I like it. I know I’ll ruffle some feathers. That’s what journalists do. The good are agitators for truth and justice. The good guys don’t bustle just to bustle. We agitate to “form a more perfect union.” I’m one of the good guys.
I have my load and I am ready for the challenge. So get ready, Indianapolis!
Contact IndyStar Public Engagement Editor Oseye Boyd at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @oseyetboyd.