Our Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, JJIE.org, has its roots in part in The Race Beat, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book co-written by Hank Klibanoff, former managing editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I was taken by how important it was for the press to shine a spotlight on the injustices taking place in the South before and during the Civil Rights era. Today that same kind of spotlight must be shone on the juvenile justice system, which, with its share of injustices, remains in the shadows of the collective American consciousness.
When John Fleming came our way as the prospective editor of the JJIE.org, I knew he was a kindred spirit who cares deeply about high quality, ethically sound journalism and equal justice for all. That dual commitment is illustrated in his just published essay in the Nieman Reports entitled: Compelled to Remember What Others Want to Forget.
Klibanoff, Fleming and a small cadre of other reporters explain what has driven them, often for no pay, to report on the long ago crimes against blacks during the Civil Rights era. Of that time, Fleming writes:
I think, believe and hope that through knowing, by accepting the truth of it all, we’d be better. In my dreaming times, I yearn for it. When I awaken, I realize that the way forward is through doing what we do best. We tell stories. We are journalists. And if we, as journalists, don’t tell these forgotten stories, who will?
We all must read those Nieman Report essays and reflect on that time, but also concentrate on our time when the work begun during the Civil Rights era is nowhere near complete. We don’t want to have to wait 50 years to tell the stories that reveal the truth of our times – and thus we have the JJIE.org and our small team of writers under Fleming’s guidance, who are here to tell the stories of the kids who are often pushed to the far margins of society and to the far reaches of our collective consciousness.