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Naomi Klein: “There is Crying in Journalism”

You know the scene from “A League of Their Own” when that one girl is sobbing and Tom Hanks yells at her, “There’s no crying in baseball”? In that movie, it’s a clear way for him to articulate that he’s still wary about if there should be women in baseball, because women, of course, lead to emotions, and emotions lead to tear-streaked baseball mitts and smeared mascara.

My mom has modified this line for most situations where she did not want me to be crying throughout my life. From “There’s no crying on your birthday” (I had a weirdly precocious understanding of mortality) to “There’s no crying in the musical” (but I was cut from another tap number!), the statement was always well-intentioned, but never followed. I wasn’t just not going to cry if I felt something overwhelming.

Based on my undergraduate education in journalism so far, I definitely also thought there was no crying in journalism. First, exempting one lecturer, my professors have all been men, mostly around my dad’s age. One professor I had used an article about his own friend’s death as an example in class, something brave and powerful but heartbreaking. We are taught to be objective, stalwart and solid in the face of the craziness we’re covering.

Yet when Naomi Klein came to speak last week as a winner of the Izzy Awards, awarded by the Park Center for Independent Media, she showed a very different side of journalism. She said that growing up, her mom was a documentary filmmaker with Studio D, a renowned government-funded all-women studio. David Sterritt explains: The [National Film Board] describes Studio D as `the first ever all-women’s filmmaking unit.’ It was established in 1974 as part of the NFB’s continuing effort to give all segments of the Canadian public meaningful access to its government-funded facilities.” Klein said that when these women created documentaries about important issues, often directly pertinent to the women’s movement, they would have screenings in public spaces, followed by in-depth discussion and, often, crying. The films were fact-based and well-made, but the information they provided incited their audiences to action. The filmmakers weren’t left untouched, either. For good journalism, she said, “It’s the combination of the digging and the caring that’s really important.” People like her become independent journalists, she continued, because the mainstream institutions of journalism don’t allow us to care. The independent sector does. Independent media is where the diggers- those willing to go deep into research, holistically explore the issues- and the carers- those who put their hearts on the line- collide.

Throughout her speech, Klein repeatedly referenced her family and the incredible influence they played in her journalism career. Her prolific journalism career today is built on the foundation that her parents and grandparents provided. We’re all constructing our careers on organic foundations of advice from parents, wishes of friends, philosophies of our hometowns, mantras of professors. We care because they cared about us. That caring can only make our journalism better.

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