Reporting White Supremacy: The State of the Beat

How does white supremacy both exacerbate and alter what we think of as media at risk?

Coverage of white supremacy continues to increase and gain visibility in mainstream media. But it has also raised questions for US newsrooms, activists, scholars and the public at large about how white supremacy should be treated by the media. Florence Madenga and Jeanna Sybert, doctoral students at the Annenberg School for Communication and members of the Center for Media at Risk Steering Committee, conversed with eight individuals — journalists and scholars concerned with and deeply invested in how they and their peers are covering white supremacy in the United States.


Two years ago, when asked for the most original metaphors they could think of to describe the 2016 election cycle and its coverage, journalists from across the nation described the political landscape leading up to Donald Trump’s inauguration as: 

“The Second Coming’ by William Butler Yeats.” —Ben Schreckinger, Politico

“A flaming dumpster filled with the diapers of rhesus macaques who have been force-fed Sriracha sauce.” —David Weigel, Washington Post

“Like holding onto the 87th leg of a giant centipede walking through a Fourth of July parade en route to Woodstock.” —Major Garrett, CBS News

“It’s a board game—a massive board game featuring 10 players or so that gets interrupted by a massive orangutan that jumps on top of the table/everything and sets everyone scrambling.” —Al Weaver, Washington Examiner

“A 10-car pileup on the highway to the White House.” —Leigh Munsil, TheBlaze

For Aaron Cantú, a journalist at the Santa Fe Reporter, the 2016 presidential election and the inauguration that followed dictated the next steps in his career in a way that, like many of the journalists above, upended all possible expectations. This began on the day of Trump’s inauguration near the White House, where Cantú and a few other reporters went to cover marches taking place in the nation’s capital, protesting “Trump’s ascent, following a year of bubbling anti-fascism against his campaign.”

“The protests happening at that time were already very, very much on the radar of the DC police,” he says, remembering the scene. “As soon as somebody broke a window, that was kind of their signal to just throw everything at the marchers. I was in the march and, once the DC police began to shoot tear gas and pepper spray, it kind of became a complete scene of chaos. Later, a report found that the police fired over seventy sting ball grenades in like fifteen, twenty minutes.”

That same day, Cantú, along with 200 other people, was arrested.  He was then indicted by a grand jury on eight separate charges, which included inciting a riot, conspiracy to riot, and destruction of property. It took 15 months to dismiss the charges. Had he been convicted of all charges, he would have faced 75 years in prison.

“The main thing that I expected were the brawls that we’ve seen in Charlottesville and Portland and everywhere else,” says Cantú. Before Trump was inaugurated, he had imagined himself making “the rise of white nationalism” his central beat as a reporter. However, his experiences in the year after the inauguration revealed an unsettling reality that he could not reconcile. “I wasn’t really expecting for those alt-right, far-right forces to have been working at that point already with state security — with the DC police, with the U.S. Attorney’s office — that sort of blending of vigilante far-right with actual state security institutions. Something I had read about, but I had not expected to happen that day.”

The current political climate has exacerbated the need to address ongoing issues in journalistic practice, such as legitimacy, truth telling, aggression and violence against the press, and sensationalism in an ever more digital world grappling with “fake news.” But few media practitioners and scholars could have predicted the incoming administration’s relationship to white supremacy and the challenges it would pose in all realms of American life. However, one thing is clear: reporting on white supremacy right now, responsibly and thoughtfully, is even more crucial than ever before.

In the past few years, high-profile incidents involving white supremacists have elevated the concern of journalists, politicians, academics, and the public at large. Among many other incidents, there was the catastrophic “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, coupled with the president’s “very fine people on both sides” response. There were his comments declaring himself a “nationalist” twice in a week in reference to immigration policy. There was his denial of the links between his inflammatory language and the explosive devices mailed to his critics by a supporter who called himself a white supremacist. He blamed the media instead.  

Within a week of the 2018 midterm elections, in which a record number of white supremacists were reportedly openly running for office, an anti-Semitic, white supremacist gunman murdered 11 people in a synagogue in Pittsburgh. This was only three years after white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine black congregants in a Charleston, SC church. Just a day after the midterm elections, PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor, also a woman of color, asked Trump a question: “There are some people that say that now the Republican party is seen as supporting white nationalists because of your rhetoric. What do you make of that? Some people see that as emboldening white nationalists.”

Trump interrupted her.

“I don’t know why you’d say that, that’s such a racist question. I don’t believe it.”

Another one of many journalists who was present at the 2016 inauguration, covering the “white supremacy beat,” is Vegas Tenold. Donald Trump’s election win dropped while Tenold was writing his book, Everything You Love Will Burn: Inside the Rebirth of White Nationalism in America. The words in the book’s title, “everything you love will burn,” came from a smug and celebratory text Tenold received from one of the white supremacist, far-right figures he had been covering on the night that Trump won the election. After years of covering the far-right in the United States, Tenold’s subject matter suddenly gained prominence in news discourse. He notes that most of the coverage of the far-right in America had taken a lull after the 1990s and early 2000s, and believes that one of the few positive changes in journalism since the 2016 election is the rise of a white supremacy beat. 

“When I started doing this, for the first five years whenever I went to rally, I would always see a ton of journalists, but I would very rarely see the same journalist at two rallies,” he says. “But now, most newspapers, most online outlets have a journalist who covers this, and you have really smart people now who are starting to see a bigger picture. They were covering this before Charlottesville and covered it since. So institutions now have almost an institutional memory.”

The call for a dedicated white supremacy beat, and conversations among scholars and journalists about what that might entail, have been going on for years. These conversations have only gotten more nuanced as the frameworks through which reporters cover far-right movements have shifted under the current administration. In August 2017, right after the rally in Charlottesville, journalist Amanda Darrach penned an article for the Columbia Journalism Review titled: “Should We Cover Right Wing Extremism?” To address this question, she sat down with various media scholars and journalists. One media scholar, Whitney Phillips, points out that journalists covered the Ku Klux Klan differently in the 1970s, focusing on the basic “who, what, when” instead of “rewarding” white supremacists with direct quotes.

In our own conversation with scholar Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a historian, cultural critic, and expert on fascism and media, she noted: “I think we have to distinguish between informing the public about what’s happening and covering these phenomena in ways that glamorize them or give them audiences they wouldn’t already have. Take the case of Stephen Bannon: he’s very open about his intention to destabilize democracy here [the US] and in Europe and his embrace of white nationalism and hate tactics. And yet he is given prime-time, marquee interviews by major outlets that put him on the same level as the famous interviewer (such as Fareed Zakaria), and normalize him. Hate gets mainstreamed when its protagonists are treated as mainstream figures.”

In Darrach’s article, journalist and radio host John Sepulvado responds with a different view, that not covering right wing extremism is treating it like a cold instead of a cancer that is dangerous and needs to be exposed. He buttresses this view by stating: “The press is supposed to humanize people. A lot of times, humanization is misunderstood as making a person seem more relatable, but that’s not true. Sometimes humanizing someone actually can show what monsters lurk in their hearts.”

The discussion around “humanizing” white supremacists in the name of storytelling and narrative has been a contested one. A notorious example is the New York Times piece “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland, which received backlash from readers, media critics and journalists alike.

A critique of the piece published in the Columbia Journalism Review bitingly echoed this sentiment: “Those details—from Hovater’s sautéing of ‘minced garlic with chili flakes,’ to his Seinfeld fandom—humanize a man who marched with white supremacists in Charlottesville and believes that America would be better off as an ethno-nationalist state. The piece is heavy on banality, but fails to capture the evil that Hovater doesn’t even try to conceal.”

The journalists we interviewed grappled with the case and most were critical of the piece. Shortly and quickly after the New York Times published it, freelance reporter Brendan O’Connor partnered with Jezebel reporter Anna Merlan and wrote an article following up on the mistakes the New York Times had made. Their goal was to say: “Here are all the things that we knew about this guy, just from being on this beat, that weren’t included in the story that either falsify, complicate or falsify his claims or self-presentation.” O’Connor adds that applying certain kinds of profile writing techniques where journalists may imagine they can “give someone the rope to hang themselves with” doesn’t work with Nazis. “They’ll take the rope and hang you. They are savvy at exploiting existing media norms to their ends.”

Kelly Weill, a Daily Beast reporter who also mostly covers extreme right movements, says the best guidance she has seen on this issue is from Robert Paxton’s book The Anatomy of Fascism, and the statement: “I’m not even considering what fascists have said about themselves. I’m interested in what they do.”  If a reporter must cover the details of a white supremacist’s personal life, she argues, they should at least balance it out with a voice from somebody whom they’ve hurt or whom they’re opposed to.

One way journalists may unwittingly allow their white supremacist subjects to control the narrative is by calling them what they wish to be called. These labels may soften their causes or obscure their objectives. On the subject, Tenold observes: “The one thing I don’t think we should call them is ‘alt-right.’ Because I don’t think they’ve earned the right to name themselves. That’s their term; they came up with that term. There was a reason they picked that term. So if we also choose to use that term, then we’re kind of validating their thinking a little bit.”

Sara Lomax-Reese, a trained journalist and president and CEO of WURD radio, one of three black-owned radio stations in the nation, agrees. “Calling them alt-right is humanizing them,” she says. They are racist white people. Language matters. I think that is something that is really frustrating in this moment because we have a president who just outright lies and language does not matter. But this idea of humanizing people who make a career out of dehumanizing people other than themselves is not my job.”

As if heeding Darrach’s question about the implications of covering far-right extremism, within the same month Christiana Mbakwe outlined an argument for the necessity of a white supremacy beat in her piece for the Columbia Journalism Review : “White Supremacy Threat Demands its Own Beat Reporters.” She asked: “The ugly events in Charlottesville should raise a question for US newsrooms: Why don’t we cover white supremacy the way we cover ISIS?”

Mbakwe cites a report by The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute that showed an alarming rise of far-right attacks in the US between 2008 and 2015 (they both outnumbered Islamic terrorist attacks 2 to 1, and were more dangerous), as well as FBI warnings of the very real and growing threat of “lethal violence” caused by white supremacist extremism. Offering a vision of what that beat would ideally look like, she describes it as one that can avoid “PR-inspired descriptions such as ‘alt-right’ and produce stories less superficial than some of the white nationalist coverage seen in the election.” It would produce work as rigorous as Rukmini Callimachi’s reportage on Islamic extremism for the New York Times or as intersectional as Jamelle Bouie’s analysis at Slate.

Since Mbakwe’s article, a growing number of journalists have chosen to identify themselves as part of that beat. Recently, the New York Times Magazine released a long-form investigative piece on how US law enforcement failed to deal with the threat of white supremacy. Echoing Mbakwe’s argument for a white supremacy beat, the reporting methods used in the piece emulate some of the intense tracking and muckraking work on white supremacy that organizations like the Southern Law Poverty Center have long been doing. However, this growing and developing beat is not immune from many of the problems that plague reporters at large, namely: keeping up with or molding ever-evolving demands of “journalistic norms,” funding and providing resources for excellent reporting in an unstable media environment, and confronting issues of diversity in the newsroom and beyond. The beat has been far from perfect.

Moreover, the questions that seem to take priority in the minds of those who do cover the beat are ones of risk, both personal and communal. How does one approach finding the right sources to inform their work? What does “gaining access” look like and at what cost? How should one approach or mitigate risk in person and in a digital setting?

The Committee to Protect Journalists, an affiliate of the Center for Media at Risk, published a short report in March of 2018 highlighting some of the threats that reporters face on the beat. Michael Edison Hayden, who reports on far-right white identity movements for Newsweek, revealed that covering these stories caused greater emotional stress and trauma for him than reporting on the Nepalese earthquake, or the disputed territory between India and Pakistan in Kashmir. For Hayden, the beat’s risks involved “getting accustomed” to both veiled and explicit anonymous threats, while weathering “a deluge of menacing messages about his family,” including an anonymous post detailing a plan for strangers to throw a Molotov cocktail through his parents’ bedroom window.  

To manage the anxiety that comes with online threats, O’Connor sets up his Twitter account to block notifications from people he doesn’t follow. He also keeps anything linking him to the people in his life off social media. For his personal safety at home, he remains conscious of the palpable presence of Polish Nazi groups in his neighborhood. However, he knows he cannot completely evade the risk. “I don’t mean to be fatalistic about it, but it’s something that I think every journalist and especially every digital journalist has to deal with, regardless of what they are covering,” he shrugs. “There are particular dynamics that apply on this beat, and the fact that over the course of the past year, a loose community of reporters has emerged makes it a little bit easier to handle the psychological stress of knowing these people are out there and have, effectively, your name on a list.”

The loose community of reporters O’Connor refers to includes Daily Beast reporter Kelly Weill, journalist and author Vegas Tenold and others, who regularly share tips, information and strategies as a way to both offer moral support and mitigate risk. “Having one or two other reporters there who I know and who I trust may not decrease the likelihood of something happening, but we have each other’s back,” says O’Connor.  “When I went to the “Gateway Eagle Council” [a far-right annual conference] event in St. Louis, I was basically the only reporter there besides local television people and a handful of far-right bloggers. I was the only reporter there who is on this as a beat and has the politics that I do. I’ve been in riots, but I felt more uncomfortable at this conference in St Louis, at an airport hotel. I was on my own. Maybe there is an element of bravado there, but that’s how I felt.”

In addition to being part of an informal group covering the beat, more formal structures, such as being employed by a large publication instead of freelancing, may also play a part in reducing risk. “There are security guards at the front,” says Weill, who does most of her reporting online, in a high-rise New York City office. “I do assume much, much less risk than a lot of local reporters, and also a lot of local activists, a lot of local anti-fascists who are either encountering people on the ground or their location is more specifically known than mine is. I’ve had one or two incidents, but a lot of the ‘risk’ just boils down to mean comments online….It’s kind of freed me up for a lot of my coverage, and I think that’s kind of a privilege.”

Despite this, Weill doesn’t feel protected from other types of harassment. “Certainly, the language that has been used against me definitely has a strong gender skew,” she says. “But there’s a certain degree to which I just try and discount all of it. I would say there’s an anti-Semitic element, because people think I’m Jewish.”

As a female public intellectual who is especially vocal and critical about the current administration and right-wing politics globally, Ben-Ghiat is not spared from sexist and anti-Semitic harassment either. “Many people who write about right-wing politics and criticize Trump are harassed on and offline,” she says. “Women and people of color receive more of this treatment by people who want to frighten you to keep you quiet or consider harassment part of a political strategy – a kind of virtual beating….My employer, New York University, responded promptly to threats I got with a personal guard and a relocation of my office to a more secure location. But I think one gets unfortunately used to living with online trolling and insults: it’s part of the cost of political commentary in the Trump era.” 

Even before the Trump era, women and people of color, especially those calling out white-supremacy and anti-blackness from alternative positions, have had to anticipate more risk and backlash than their white colleagues. “When I first started speaking out against white supremacy and anti-blackness I was still active in the Occupy movement,” says Bobby London, a freelance journalist and writer who has gotten pushback from all sides of the political spectrum. “I got harassed, gaslighted and physically threatened both on and offline. The more critical and widespread my critique of white supremacy became, the more I would and still have to deal with online harassment. When I wrote The Myth of The White Radical, which is a critique on white radicals, I dealt with a lot of harassment from radical whites and non-whites who thought I was being unfairly critical to their ‘white comrades.’ As a repercussion I was blackballed from spaces and speaking engagements. I truly believe that if I would have been more accommodating to whiteness and less vocal about white supremacy outside of the right that I would have had more opportunities granted to me as a writer.”

The cost of strong political commentary has always been a near and present danger for media professionals, but according to scholar John Nerone the past few years have seen a growing aggression against the press that is eroding the professional protection journalists may have enjoyed in previous eras. This shift is especially complex because it isn’t only manifested in physical violence, but in violence perpetrated by virtual mobs against the media. “In this case, I think you’re seeing the rise of something that I would call “virtual violence,” says Nerone. “In some cases, it’s as simple as putting the reporter’s address on social media, which now sounds like a very chilling message. So there’s been this great reconfiguration of how your personal presence in society is supposed to be known, and that intersects with this reconfiguration of the relationship between journalism and politics in interesting ways.”

Cantú received many “chilling messages” during the year after his arrest at Trump’s inauguration. He alleges that the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia confiscated his cellphone and tried to use Israeli technology to crack into it. He also believes that the US attorney’s office began to send subpoenas to various social media companies and to Apple to access the digital records of certain defendants. He recalls that Andrew Anglin, the alt-right publisher of Daily Stormer, called him a “spic journalist” on his website, celebrating the fact that he would soon possibly be in prison for life. He will most likely never forget that Chuck Johnson, the far-right political activist and self-proclaimed “investigative reporter,” was somehow able to obtain the names of arrested defendants, as well as the cities of residency and ages from the Metropolitan Police Department. “They posted all of our names and all our information,”  Cantú says. “And some people got doxxed really bad. When I found out that was going to happen, I figured it out and changed my logins and passwords for everything. I took my name off of all of these public domain registries, which I found out how to do on Reddit. It was a very, very stressful few days.”

Such surveillance and silencing, either by local authorities, the administration or by “virtual mobs,” often results in self-censorship by reporters trying to navigate the beat while preserving their physical and mental safety. “I definitely was self-censoring at the beginning, and that was on the advice of my attorneys,” says Cantú. “No one knew to what extent Trump was going to be able to become the authoritarian he aspires to be. So early on, my attorneys told me: ‘Don’t say anything on social media that’s overly critical of the Trump administration.’ Because, ultimately, it’s his justice department that’s presiding over these cases, and if they feel vindictive because of something I said, they can continue to pursue the charges rather than dropping them.” Even though his charges have since been cleared, Cantú shares: “I feel, I still feel, just not definitely as comfortable as I once was of openly expressing my opinions in a public setting. I don’t really know how to break past that.”

Something that Cantú hopes the beat can break through, and an issue that he has discussed with Weill at length, is the racial disparities on the beat. “This is a really white beat, which is kind of weird, you know, covering white supremacists.” Weill admits. “I look at most of the people on my beat, myself included, and most of us are white, and I think that probably speaks to a lot of journalism. Aaron [Cantú] has made the point, I think correctly, that a lot of journalists on this beat have used their reporting, whether or not it’s good, to increase their media clout. If you’re within a certain sphere of digital journalism, and you’re very plugged in, sometimes being on this beat can help elevate your profile…I want to make the point that there are certain risks that journalists of color assume that I don’t. There is a degree to which journalists need to self-reflect and think about how much we are using this platform to raise our own public profile.”

It is an open secret that mainstream American media has had a diversity and labor equity issue for a long time. The white supremacy beat has to confront this legacy, especially in light of what the actual beat is supposed to represent. Some argue that the focus on the “far-right” or white supremacist groups by mainstream media can be misguided because white supremacy has long been embedded in American structures and institutions. Some go even further to say that mainstream U.S media have always been complicit in dehumanizing people of color and normalizing white supremacist ideals.

These trajectories, as a result, fundamentally shape the dynamics of the white supremacy beat. “You don’t have enough people who are not white, who are of marginalized groups, reporting on these issues and contributing their editorial perspective in the newsrooms,” Cantú confirms. “As long as that’s an issue, it’s gonna be easier for extremists to slither their way into the mainstream because newsrooms, unfortunately, lack that sort of nuanced perspective that comes from being a minority in a majority white country.”

Additionally, simply creating “more diverse newsrooms” and increasing numbers may not be enough without challenging whom mainstream publications view as their default audience. “I care about what’s happening with black people,” says Lomax-Reese.  “I appreciate the fact that there are efforts to create more diverse and dynamic newsrooms, but every black person I know that works at a mainstream media outlet feels like they are not able to really express [themselves] and do the stories. They feel like they are the parsley or the garnish to the side of the plate. That is by virtue of the fact that mainstream media is really white media. And so we call it mainstream media, which automatically disempowers everything else. It’s white media that has more resources and more capacity to invite other people into their world. Perhaps there will be an opportunity to cover the city in a holistic kind of way. But the world view is the white world view. That is the mainstream and that is the center.”

But can this change? Is it changing as far-right movements gain more prominence, as communities in the US become more diverse and vocal about it, and as audiences increasingly gain more say on what reporters are covering? Who will journalists on the beat be writing for? Joining Darrach and Mbawe in discussing the white supremacy beat, Cantú is writing a piece for the Columbia Journalism Review which explores some of these questions. He theorizes that the urban insurrections across the country and Kerner Commission Report at the end of the 1960s resulted in a push to integrate people of color into newsrooms.  But since then, efforts have fallen by the wayside, and now reporters of color have been left to somehow pick up some of the slack. 

“As a result, you see things like a report by The Oregonian,The misunderstood Joey Gibson,’ ” Cantú begins. He feels that Joey Gibson, a Unite the Right organizer and leader of Patriot Prayer, and a “dude who’s hanging around with neo-Nazis,” was painted in the piece as a very sympathetic figure, in line with the tone of other stories that have been covered by the Associated Press, New York Times and NBC. “Those stories wouldn’t be published if there were more non-white people in media, and I think you’re seeing now just how dire the situation is, the lack of diversity is, because now you need those people to filter out the obviously sort of sympathetic alt-right news stories. That’s not to say that non-white media professionals should only be relegated to moral arbiters of “what is white supremacy and what isn’t.”

One way that writers and reporters of color have been telling these stories outside the boundaries of mainstream media is through online black spaces and publications like Blavity, The Grio or Essence, and black-owned media, like WURD radio. “This is a space where it’s our humanity, our stories, our experiences, our perspectives, not necessarily always as it relates to the white community,” says Lomax-Reese. “And that’s a radical shift in thinking. I think that as black people, we are so programmed to be living our lives in reaction to this external world. [But] what does it feel like to have your own agency and to recognize that these things exist? To be able to frame and tell your own story. And honestly, it requires some training. Because it’s very easy to just be ‘in reaction to.’”

Alternatively, journalists of color are telling their stories within mainstream publications but outside the problematic frameworks of the beat as it stands. They are reporting on white supremacy through the lens of police brutality and law enforcement in black neighborhoods, the intersection of politics and identitymass incarceration and racial discrimination, segregation and racism in schools, or well-mapped work on racial inequality and wealth. These stories focus on the communities of color that have been affected by white supremacist policies, instead of merely focusing on the idiosyncrasies and personalities of white supremacist figures.

In this vein, what differentiates the Pulitzer Prize-winning profile that Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah wrote, “A Most American Terrorist: The Making of Dylann Roof,” from the much maligned profile that Richard Faucett wrote, “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland,” is not necessarily what they are writing about, but whom they are writing for. In response to the backlash from Faucett’s piece, New York Times national editor Marc Lacey wrote that while the goal of the piece was not to offend but to “describe the degree to which hate and extremism have become far more normal in American life than many of us want to think.” The publication recognized why there was pushback (among other things, the article included a link to a website that sells swastika armbands, which the Times then removed). Lacey devoted a good amount of his response to acknowledge one key comment that had been sent by Karen Attiah, editor at The Washington Post: “Instead of long, glowing profiles of Nazis/White nationalists, why don’t we profile the victims of their ideologies? Why not a piece about the mother of Heather Heyer, the woman who was killed in Charlottesville? Follow-ups on those who were injured? Or how PoC are coping?”

In an interview on NPR’s All Things Considered, Ghansah says that “Dylann was very determined to keep all psychological and personal information out of the trial, and his silence struck me as being defiant and insulting. It felt extremely unfair that he was allowed to have this sanctuary of silence. The family members and the victims had been interrogated and had to testify and had to sort of validate the goodness of their character.”

In the days following the Dylann Roof trial, asking “how PoC are coping” is what drove Ghansah to stay in South Carolina for months. It pushed her to walk to Roof’s father’s door, peer anxiously through the Plexiglas, spot two 100-pound Rottweiler dogs and, “at all costs,” persist. “I was very, very sick at the time of hearing so much about black people being murdered in the streets,” she says. “And I kind of felt like, well, it’s time to stand up. It’s time to knock on someone’s door. It’s time to make them justify how we’re treated in this country.”

Since Ghansah’s piece and Trump’s election, more reporters, journalists and writers have been speaking truth to power, even with the ambiguities surrounding what the white supremacy beat is, what it means and where it is going. As their work continues and evolves, those covering white supremacy will have other challenges beyond chasing down and interviewing members of various far-right movements. They will need to confront the current administration and the broader, historical, “white supremacist” power structures on which it stands. They will have to address the ways in which mainstream media need to change to enable responsible storytelling. They may want to look for lessons learned from those before them — from the reporters in the 1970s covering the Ku Klux Klan, to the reporters in the last presidential cycle. They will need to be in a constant state of reflexivity about their own roles on the beat.  It will come with compounded risk.

This piece was written by Florence Madenga. It incorporates photography by Rodney Dunning taken at the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, VA as well as Timeline, visually rich and interactive timelines generated by the Northwestern University KnightLab, created by Jeanna Sybert.


Aaron Cantu

Journalist at the Santa Fe Reporter.

Vegas Tenold

Journalist and author of  Everything You Love Will Burn: Inside the Rebirth of White Nationalism in America.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat

Historian, author, and political commentator on fascism, authoritarian leadership, propaganda and threats to democracy.

John Nerone

Historian, media scholar, author of Violence against the Press.

Amanda Darrach

Journalist and Columbia Journalism Review Delacorte Fellow.

Brendan O’Connor

Freelance journalist whose work has appeared in The Nation, The New Yorker, Jezebel   and Gawker.  

Kelly Weil

Reporter at The Daily Beast.

Sara Lomax-Reese

President and CEO of WURD Radio, Pennsylvania’s only African-American-owned talk station.

Christiana Mbakwe

Writer, contributor at  the Columbia Journalism Review, researcher at The Daily Show.

Bobby London

Freelance writer and journalist  whose work has appeared on ForHarrietCounterPunch, and TruthOut.

Center for Media at Risk
media.risk@asc.upenn.edu

This article was published by the editors and producers at the Center for Media at Risk.