Tina Vasquez’s journey toward movement journalism grew from her background and family, who she sees as direct influences on how she does her work.
Vasquez, a senior reporter with Prism, has been covering immigration issues, specifically the treatment of undocumented immigrants and the abuse and mistreatment they suffer, for most of her career. But it’s only recently that she’s learned the language to accurately identify the type of work she does: movement journalism, a topic for which she recently wrote a piece for Nieman Reports.
Put simply, movement journalism is “journalism in service of liberation and it seeks to meet the needs of the community directly affected by injustice,” she says. “As an extension, as I do journalism, I don’t see myself reporting on communities but alongside them. I end up working very closely with people who are sources but trying to respond to their information needs, whether that has anything to do with reporting; just using the skills I have and the power I have to get them the information they need for their communities.”
She doesn’t see herself as an advocate, necessarily.
“I don’t purport to be a mouthpiece for movements,” Vasquez says. “I try hard to shift narratives. I do center advocates in my reporting a lot. They come from directly affected communities. I write really uncomfortable stories and don’t adhere to a tidy narrative. Sometimes that doesn’t gel with organizations.”
For example, Vasquez recently uncovered the name of the doctor who is believed to have carried out forced operations on women in ICE facilities in Georgia. She spoke directly with women who had been subjected to these procedures, some of whom spoke out against the whistleblower and saying the woman who brought the story to light was complicit in the actions.
Vasquez knows personal the hardships facing undocumented immigrants — her father came to the U.S. from Mexico without “authorization,” she says — and Vasquez feels that makes her better prepared and knowledgeable about the nuances of challenges facing that community of people.
It also makes her keenly aware of who’s missing from most stories about immigration.
“When I look at mainstream reporting about immigration or immigration reporting from legacy outlets, there are no undocumented people quoted, pretty regularly,” she says. “If you are reading reporting about this horrible new policy that brutalizes immigrants in the U.S., there will be Trump quotes and Stephen Miller quotes and ICE and DHS, but nowhere will you find people most impacted by this policy.”
She’s also had people make assumptions about her own citizenship. “Based on my reporting and my name, people have threatened to call ICE on me and threatened to report me. They think I must be undocumented. It’s so strange.”
If her fellow reporters take issue with her work, or want to question her ability to cover these issues objectively?
“I’ve never had a lot of concern about how other journalists view my work,” Vasquez says. “I know what things are important to me and how building trust is important to me and how keeping people safe is important to me. If that doesn’t gel with mainstream journalism, I’m totally fine with that.”
It’s All Journalism host Michael O’Connell talks with Tina Vasquez, a reporter with Prism and author of a new piece in Nieman Reports titled “Is Movement Journalism What Is Needed During This Reckoning Over Race and Inequality?” They discuss movement journalism and how people who practice it aren’t necessarily advocates but are better equipped to present stories from marginalized and underserved communities.