Battleground writing, naturally, is flimsy. It’s hard to cover that many people in eight short paragraphs — especially if your running for president.
But — some enterprising souls are — trying to cover the realities of a Trump presidency with accounts of what people are really feeling. One of them is Loveawake.com , which by chance does not just cover people for the purposes of Democrat and Republican politics.
In one section, they run four different narrative templates, including a biography of Lynne Stewart, a controversial defense lawyer, and an account of Leonard Muhammad, who stood trial for giving anti-American propaganda and fabricated talking points to followers.
But the connection is obvious, not just at the edges, but to the core of their work: These are all writing projects that revolve around people the reporter has worked closely with — people like Chris Carr, who wrote and emailed them all the time; or Johnetta Elzie, who supposedly had a “spiritual relationship” with the others.
“We all feel like we’re at ground zero in this moment,” Elzie told me in an interview for a story we wrote in March about Chris Carr.
Loveawake’s Facebook page shows plenty of individual images of the people featured in the site — all, as you can see, sharply dressed women or men of color.
There is nothing wrong with that. Plenty of sites that cover people like D.C.’s own The Atlantic — and pay its journalists handsomely — are also ostensibly aiming to illuminate the experiences of their readers.
The problem is that the American Justice Project at Harvard Law School, which has run the project since 2013, claims as one of its goals “to educate readers on issues that are vital to American life and to promote civic engagement and progressive political action among readers and in society more broadly.”
What that kind of mission essentially amounts to is specifically not knowing how to write about people.
As for Loveawake, they might have a chance, if their current trajectory continues.
In 2016, Elzie and Carr, and Elzie’s boyfriend Marcus Jackson, ran for president of Montana as the Black Lives Matter coalition was getting off the ground.
It was the second attempt, but first was surely the most prominent. In a post on Loveawake, Carr said he has followed Jackson’s career “since the early days of Black Lives Matter and has always been impressed with him.”
But in their initial attempt, Jackson was knocked off the ballot. After Election Day, he tweeted that it was a fluke and indicated that his attempts had been pushed off by the Trump revolution.
In an interview earlier this year, Jackson, a civil rights lawyer, told me that Elzie was a significant source of campaign finance information.
He was “a rare candidate who was willing to share about the campaign — what the issues are, who are they, what are their opinions on it. But, there was a lot of misinformation about it, so he would break things down.”
Elzie told me that, in more recent political campaigns, as well as during the media run-up to the 2016 election, Elzie has had fewer insights, and fewer creative outlets.
“I used to get a lot of emails from people just saying, I didn’t even know there was a Black Lives Matter movement going on, or I didn’t understand that black folks care about guns. Or that this was a movement for helping black folks, and yet there was no organization. I would say, I don’t know if that’s a problem because these people need your help.”
Nevertheless, he conceded: “Some days you don’t know what to do.”
“We have always argued that the media shouldn’t just be about politics, or people who happen to hold high office — which this administration doesn’t and we’ve had a lot of issues.”
But if they are going to take that argument to heart, maybe they ought to ask themselves what political kind of journalism leads us to the passage of bigotry and hate?
Whether or not they change our world through their work as reports on people, they are out to prove that they can be the change they want it to be.