When Klamath Basin farmers protested water cuts in 2020, I followed their parade of tractors from the staging ground to the end of their route. When Black Lives Matter protests erupted in Portland, Oregon, in 2020, I showed up night after night, planting myself between ranks of protesters and walls of cops decked out in riot gear. When faculty at Oregon Institute of Technology went on strike in 2021, I stood with them on the picket lines for four days. 

The only way to accurately portray a social justice movement is to immerse yourself in it. That doesn’t mean showing up for 30 seconds to record a few sound bites; it means showing up day after day to feel the stun grenades explode between your feet.

Immersion also means digging deep into the history of an issue, putting it into context, and explaining why it matters. When Brie Landis made history as the first write-in candidate to win the office of ASOIT President at Oregon Tech, and the student government questioned the legitimacy of their win, I dove into the election bylaws. When gray wolves returned to Oregon, I explored the history of their near-extermination and reintroduction to find out why their presence sparked tension between ranchers and environmentalists. When Oregon Tech faculty went on strike, I researched the history of their union and their relationship with university administration to find out what had pushed them to embrace their last resort.

Part of the journalist’s job is to report from the front lines of social change—to write the first version of history. Doing it well requires eagerness for immersion, enthusiasm for in-depth investigation, and a desire to unravel all the nuance and complexity of an issue or a movement.