News & Politics

Can We Make Time For Love? ColorLines Brings Something Positive to Social Justice Journalism

A family supporting their "princess boy" and a love song for women of color are just some of the ways that Colorlines, a daily news site, seeks to articulate love.

Journalists often pass on our occupational hazard to our readers. In the search for the next big headline, the media often focus on the sensational, the original, but most importantly, the negative. “What went wrong today,” should be the sub-headline of every breaking story of the day. The injustice of the day is the driving force of nearly all news media and is too often driven by the desire for profits, rather than an interest in finding real solutions.

The progressive news site is no different in the journalism game. But one day in 2010 in the midst of reporting on gay teen Tyler Clementi’s suicide and Arizona’s anti-immigrant bill, SB 1070, Kai Wright, the ’s editor, was over it. He passed around a graphic designed by his partner simply saying, “Love, Love” and used his Editor’s Blog to commit to “Celebrating Love” every day at the site. Loosely defined, the goal is to find instances of love in the form of an action; a selfless act or a courageous one. Of course, some of the posts have a political spin, but the main idea is to look for instances, newsy or not, where a brave act illustrates an individual’s love for a community, or a community’s love for an ideal.  

To date, the most popular showcase was a family’s support of their little boy in Seattle who called himself a princess and chose to be Cinderella for Halloween. The posted video shows his older brother saying, “He’s my little brother, if he’s happy, I’m happy.” Other submissions (both staff and reader) include “I Love my Boo,” a public health advertising campaign that initially started to address sexual health among gay black and Latino men, but broadened to promote healthy, loving relationships among gay men of color rather than approach the conversation about gay men solely from a disease prevention standpoint.  

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The newsiest of the posts reported on the bravery of theDREAM Act activists, immigrant youth who risked arrest and even deportation to advocate for official acceptance through education in a country that seemed hell bent on keeping them out. In each of the cases, love gets explained through the acts the individuals commit to and usually involves a sacrifice of some kind.

“Mostly we think about love as something that is selfish and self-involved and necessarily limited to small interpersonal actions,” Wright told me. “I think love is bigger than that. Love is something that is selfless. Love is something that you do.” He says the community-based perspective Colorlines cultivates lends itself to community-centered posts. Often it would feature an extension of the site’s focus on attacking the oppressive structures of racism by posting something that attacks a stereotype that is a hangover of those structures. A black father acknowledging and celebrating his son’s love of sparkly, “girly” outfits proves that black men can overcome the widely highlighted stereotype (a la Tracy Morgan) of homophobic tendencies. Three young women winning top honors in the Google science fair shows that women can excel in the male-dominated world of science and technology. Even a video of a beluga whale who loves Mariachi music proves that something white and powerful can appreciate different cultures--just kidding. (Watch the video. It’s adorable.)

“Celebrate Love” can be that spoonful of sugar that helps the politics go down, or it can show where the politics of race and society did something right. The latter is the beginnings of "solutions journalism,” a burgeoning movement that seeks to highlight good news instead. As journalist Susan Benesch put it, "Instead of pointing out what’s wrong in the hope that someone will fix it, solutions journalism points out what’s right, hoping that someone can imitate it."

News outlets frequently express their burn-out with all that’s wrong with the world by reporting that seems more like fluff or an extreme focus on inconsequential “bread-and-circus” stories--Casey Anthony comes to mind.  A browse through the “Love” stories shows the big idea that love, expressed in a truly revolutionary sense, can define and redefine the word and challenge our ideas of it.

In this expression, love’s natural ally is action and expanding the section will build on the reader’s desire to act from love. “We don’t go far enough into the next phase of talking about solutions,” Wright acknowledges. “We have to include them when we’re doing our work.”

Rather than going to one extreme of only reporting on a bad thing someone did today, or distracting the masses from the bad thing someone is doing to them, the idea of “Celebrate Love” is based in a reality we can actually enjoy. It’s easy to forget that life can be good, that just fights can be won, and that love can conquer at least something, if not all. This feature provides a platform to highlight, cherish and ultimately reconnect with the loving beings even the wonkiest and most cynical of progressives can be. Wright’s “Celebrate Love” tagline says it best: “There may be a long road ahead to justice, but surely it begins with everyone doing their best to love themselves and one another.”

Rae Gomes is an associate editor at AlterNet and co-editor of the "Ten Things" column at the Nation magazine.