From a Ghanaian-American Journalist: The Dangers of Losing News Coverage

Published by Fiifi Frimpong on

From a Ghanaian-American Journalist: The Dangers of Losing News Coverage

In August, I am set to begin my third and final semester at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, which will begin my search for a publication to hire me postgrad. I am a 23-year-old New York journalist that spent most of my time in the Bronx.

By the time I graduate in December, the American economy may experience a deeper economic dive than what we are in now, similar to what we experienced from 2007-2009. Right now, nearly 20 million Americans are unemployed. The stock market continued to see major sell-offs the past couple weeks as investors fear spikes of coronavirus cases and journalism newsrooms are cutting staff and therefore coverage amid financial struggles.

Ahmaud Arbery mural at Krog Street Tunnel. Fiifi Frimpong | Avant-Youth

But more important than everything I just mentioned, I am a Ghanaian-American man covering news in the United States, a country where folks that look like me are not valued as much as their White counterparts.

I care for people of color and I always want them to be covered by all publications. This raises awareness and plays a role in sparking change in this country.

But if journalists are continuing to lose jobs covering injustices at local levels, who will be there to hold people in power accountable?

Around the country, Black people are experiencing police brutality, systemic racism and seeing their peers hang from trees.

Ahmaud Arbery was pursued and killed while jogging near Brunswick in Glynn County, Georgia, in February. After the killing, a prosecutor who had the case for weeks decided arrests should not be made because the pursuers had acted within the scope of Georgia’s citizen arrest and that Travis McMichael acted out of self-defense, according to a New York Times article.

In New York City, most of my colleagues and I were not familiar with Arbery’s death when it occurred on Feb. 23. While Georgians were informed about the situation, much attention outside of Georgia was not focused on Arbery’s death until the New York Times article was published detailing the confrontation. After the story was published and the video of the killing was leaked, Arbery’s killers were arrested in May.

On June 4 in my hometown of Bronx, NY, peaceful protestors took to the streets after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. New York City was under an 8 p.m curfew. Mayor Bill de Blasio said in the morning that protesters can stay out past curfew, if peaceful, but need to leave when cops tell them to go.

Before the curfew went into effect, officers trapped protestors by forming a large line and then moving into a confined space, a tactic called kettling. Officers used strong force to break up and arrest protesters as soon as the curfew went into effect. Some protesters were chased and beaten with batons.

Two delivery workers for La Morada, a Oaxacan restaurant owned by undocumented immigrants in the Bronx, were arrested. Delivery workers are deemed essential workers and should have been exempted from the curfew, but officers took them into custody anyway.

The Intercept, an organization dedicated to adversarial journalism, published an article about New York Police Department officers covering their badge numbers with black bands as they suppressed peaceful protestors using violence during George Floyd protests. The police department said the bands were worn to remember their peers who lost their lives due to COVID-19. Others argued that it was a tactic to remain unidentifiable while using excessive force.

In California, 24-year-old Robert Fuller was found hanging from a tree in a park on June 10.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, without doing a thorough investigation, said two days later that Fuller’s death was likely a suicide. Fuller’s family made it clear at protests, which was covered by a local reporter, that the 24-year-old was never suicidal.

The awareness created from protests coverage prompted further investigation that is being led by the Los Angeles County sheriff’s homicide bureau.

Without the contributions from the New York Times that raised awareness to Americans outside of Georgia, Ahmaud Arbery’s death could have happened without much of the country knowing and his killers would be free. The efforts from The Intercept shed a light on the NYPD’s abuse of power and exposed them for attempting to remain unidentified while over-policing protesters. The help from local California reporters, like Josie Huang, did not allow their sheriff’s department to simply classify strange deaths as suicide and move on.

Without journalists serving as watchdogs, these Black folks die in vain without justice. In an industry struggling financially to keep reporters employed, how are we going to continue exposing corruption and hold the powerful accountable? That is my fear.

A journalist’s job is to seek truth and report it. Less journalists on the ground equates to a lesser chance of exposing oppression, injustice and murder. Thankfully, there are still some publications to cover these events that eventually garner national attention. But for the next time a Black person is murdered and a newspaper is not around, will we have our hyperlocal publications that serve underrepresented communities?

Black people are in danger, and the reporters documenting the Black news are in danger as well. We are at-risk of tragedies continuously happening and not having enough individuals available to hold wrongful people’s feet to the fire. 

This worries me; it should worry the readers we serve, as well as you.

Support local journalism. Support independent journalism. Support Avant-Youth.

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Fiifi Frimpong

Fiifi Frimpong

Fiifi Frimpong is a 23-year-old graduate student at the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY in New York City. He is a multimedia journalist and hopes to specialize his work covering sports teams in America. He is usually searching for food recipes to prepare a meal, but always ends up ordering takeout from his favorite Mexican restaurant. In his free time, Frimpong enjoys attending New York Yankee games and hip-hop concerts.

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