“Hate in America,” an investigation examining intolerance, racism and hate crimes, is the 2018 project of the Carnegie-Knight News21 program, a national multimedia reporting project produced by the nation’s top journalism students.
Each year, News21 students selected into the program report in-depth on a single topic of national importance. In 2018, 38 journalism students from 19 universities traveled to 36 states, including a 7,000-mile road trip around the country. They interviewed nearly 300 people and reviewed thousands of pages of federal-court documents, FBI data, and state and federal statutes.
What they found was an emerging increase in those targeted in hate crimes by a surge of white supremacist and others who seek to victimize people. More than 2.4 million crimes, whose victims suspect were motivated by hate, were committed across the United States over a four-year-period the team examined. The digital stories, podcast series and 30-minute documentary film published in this project follow the lifecycle of hate, telling the stories of perpetrators, victims and those trying to address the relationship between the two.
News21 students pursued innovation in the project both in reporting and storytelling. For example, fellows monitored the daily social media activity of various far-right users, including white nationalists and neo-Nazis, during a two-week period to better understand how social media platforms prompt action among hate groups. Reporters recorded and compiled more than 2,500 posts on popular platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, and emerging social media platforms, including Gab and VK. These posts resulted in more than half a million “likes” from social media followers and were shared nearly 200,000 times. The story titled “Social media: Where voices of hate find a place to preach” explores the impact of this kind of digital conversation.
Fellows also embarked on a 7,000-mile road trip across 23 states to gather perspectives of Americans who are usually not included in conversations about politics or hate. They experimented with an interactive mapping tool to present these perspectives through text, photo, video and audio. In the end, the News21 team recognized that this presentation did not make the emotional or intellectual impact that more traditional stories did, but it represents an archive of voices not usually included in debates about race relations and an effort to cover this story in nuanced ways.