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A Call For More Responsible Storytelling on Criminal Justice

The authenticity of the narrative around criminal justice must be strengthened in order to improve the system itself, Danielo Forkkio of Represent Justice, said in a webinar hosted by the Law and Justice Journalism Project. To encourage beneficial change, the type of stories in the media can influence cultural change for "good nonprofit advocacy and direct service work," Forkkio said. He mentioned that storytelling and other forms of media have the power to accelerate narratives rapidly. David Ayala of the Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People and Families Movement said that oftentimes criminal justice decision-makers can minimize the severity of issues. Using good reporting techniques can add a human element and invoke feelings of sympathy. "It helps connect with folks and helps to change their hearts and mind," Ayala said. Both Forkkio and Ayala emphasized that reporting must incllude a mix of humanity and supportive data. Forkkio said that stories translate facts and data in a way that helps people "understand and process" truth.

Ayala urged journalists to build long-lasting relationships with communities affected by the justice system. He said he has not recently seen reporters interacting with communities absent large campaigns. "Journalists have to build a relationship ... they have to come in, be open to listen off record, listen and be guided," he said. Forkkio said journalists must be proactive about learning how to approach sensitive topics that are prominent within communities affected by the criminal justice system. He focused on journalists using respectful verbiage to avoid downplaying the situation and instead uplifting it. He said continuous coverage is needed in reporting on affected communities. He said some people may think that communities trying to break cycles of incarceration as not worthy of a story, but public knowledge can be beneficial. Some 70 percent of Americans may just read headlines, but providing context would help insure fair coverage.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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