GSR: Platform for a voice previously unheard

WhatsApp conversation of GSR Africa Connect group. (GSR photo / Melanie Lidman)

When I’m reporting, it’s really important to me that I not talk about people without also talking to them. So, for example, if I were writing about a rural community suffering from a health epidemic, I would want to talk to the people living in that community and not just the medical professionals in the area — no matter how knowledgeable those professionals may be.

The thing is, people have a right to speak for themselves, but the media can forget that sometimes. We journalists like to talk to academic experts because academic experts are smart. However, journalists have a tendency to rely too much on these academic experts. I mean, yes, a sociologist probably could give a solid overview of the motivations behind the protests happening at college campuses across the United States right now. However, if you really want to know what the students leading these protests are thinking and feeling, doesn’t it make sense to ask them? To let them speak for themselves?

That’s why I’m so proud of this piece from Melanie Lidman, Global Sisters Report’s Africa and Middle East correspondent. If you hadn’t heard (meaning, you don’t usually read my blog posts or follow me on Twitter) Melanie moderates a WhatsApp conversation for women religious in Africa, and this month, she talked to sisters in Kenya, Zambia and Nigeria about Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to the continent. For this piece, Melanie aggregated some of the hopes and dreams these sisters shared on WhatsApp about the papal trip.

And, if you ask me, that’s so much better than listening to experts hypothesize about what Francis might or might not say or might or might not do. I’m not saying the sisters speak for all African Catholics, but without question, they speak for themselves better than any pundit or scholar could. As you know, this is my favorite thing about social media — the platform it gives to voices that previously could be ignored.

It’s marvelous, isn’t it?

[Dawn Araujo-Hawkins is Global Sisters Report staff writer, based in Kansas City, Missouri. Follow her on Twitter @dawn_cherie