Service journalism - a dying genre that National Geographic may revive?

Service journalism is a dying genre. As the journalism trade becomes a monolithic profession, it loses touch with the struggles and realities of those born into the lower socio-economic classes of society. Sure journalists go into these communities, write a few stories, collect some journalism awards, pat themselves on the back, and feel we’re making a difference, but to the people that live the reality of poverty, we just another “drive-by”.

I come from Hamilton’s housing projects, I’ve lived most of my life below the poverty line. As one editor recently told me, I have a “conflict of interest” when it comes to reporting on socio-economically marginalized communities. It’s a conflict of interest I’m proud to embrace.

The recession has hammered many neighbourhoods and communities, but this story isn’t being told.

National Geographic may be about to change that. For the first time in the publication’s history, it will run unedited, user-generated content – stories from one of American’s most impoverished communities, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

It’s important that people who are disenfranchised from the “mainstream” of society are giving an opportunity to speak in their own voice. Too often, we pigeon-hole people into predetermined narratives.

Most importantly, by having their story told in their own voice, it becomes unique and will be harder for the powerful to ignore. Service journalism is not about parachuting in-and-out of a community, it’s about empowering that community and making sure its voice is heard.

Bravo National Geographic!