A new Scratch experiment

Here’s the thing. The emerging field of computational journalism makes it more imperative than ever that we find ways to broaden the narrow pipeline for computing professionals. While our IJIMS project was designed to attract young people who see themselves more as storytellers than “math types,” at some point, culturally responsive methods for making math more accessible are critical to producing students who are capable of taking programming courses in college. Algebra is a critical bottleneck.

This interactive story is a first draft of the first episode of a serial interactive story about getting through 7th grade math class. It is based on an interactive story engine designed by my colleague Ursula Wolz. A lot of work has to be done with it yet. The graphics were chosen because they were copyright-safe, so please try to look past that.

If you have trouble getting it to load, you can try the direct link on the Scratch site. I found it loaded best when I ran it through the experimental viewer.

Learn more about this project

Hope you find it interesting. Your feedback is welcome.

Postcards from the Edge of Du Bois’ Black Belt: Works Cited

Author’s note: This part of my unpublished 2002 essay, “Not the Subject but the Premise: Postcards from the Edge of Du Bois’ Black Belt,”  is reproduced here for comment and as fodder in the body of work upon which I am drawing for my sabbatical project. I consider it to be a failed work with some useful nuggets.

Works Cited

1.         Byfield, Natalie. “Race, Gender and the Future of the News.” (Keynote address.) The College of New Jersey, April 9, 2001.

2.         Cook, Timothy. Governing With the News: The News Media as a Political Institution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. P. 93

3.             Du Bois, W.E.B.” The Souls of Black Folk. NY: Bedford Books.© 1997

4.             _____________ “Negroes and the Crisis of Capitalism in the United States,” Lewis, W.E.B. Du Bois: A Reader, NY: Henry Holt. 1994 p. 624

5.             EPA webpages. http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/cursites/ncccity.htm#hamlet Imperial Foods Site an http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/cursites/c3nc/s0407296.htm. Accessed November, 2001

6.             Eyewitness News Daybreak. “Health Team Nine.” December 29, 1999

7.             Franklin, VP. “W.E.B. Du Bois as Journalist,” Journal of Negro Education, Vol. 56, No. 2 (1987). P. 240-244

6.     Hinchman, Thompson. “Whose Protecting Whom?” Dateline NBC. August 1, 1999

7.     Hochberg, Adam. “The owner of a North Carolina chicken processing plant has been sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison for manslaughter.” Morning Edition. September 15, 1992.

8.     ______________E-mail to Kim Pearson. January 24, 2002

9.     Hood, John. “OSHA’s Trivial Pursuit in the Workplace,” Policy Review. Summer, 1995, Vol. 73

10.  Kennedy, Randall. “My Race Problem – And Ours.” Atlantic Monthly Online. May, 1997. http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/97may/kennedy.htm

11.  Kilborn, Peter T. “In Aftermath of Deadly Fire, A Poor Town Struggles Back” New York Times. November 25, 1991

12.  .Labar, Gregg. “Hamlet, N.C.: Home to a National Tragedy.” Occupational Hazards, September, 1992

13.  Lewis, David Levering. W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race. NY: Henry Holt. 1994

14.  ________________. W.E.B. Du Bois: A Reader. NY: Henry Holt. 1994

15.  Lule Jack. Daily News, Eternal Stories, NY: Guildors Press. @2001. p. 32

16.  May, Lee. Plant Fire Held Unlikely to Spur Major Reforms…” Los Angeles Times, September 11, 1991

17.  Mindich, David T.Z. Just the Facts: How Objectivity Came to Define American Journalism. NY: New York University Press, 1998.

18.  New York University Department of Journalism. “Best American Journalism of the 20th Century.” http://www.infoplease.com/ipea/A0777379.html

19.  North Carolina Department of Corrections Public Access Information Database. Accessed August, 2001.

20.  North Carolina General Assembly. ”An Act to Appropriate Funds for the Cleanup of the Abandoned and Hazardous Imperial Foods Facility in Hamlet, North Carolina.” http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/html1999/bills/CurrentVersion/house/hbil1818.full.htm

21.  OSHA database. Accessed, November, 2001.

22.  Pearson, Kim. Interview with Martin Quick. January 13, 2002.

23.  ___________. Interview with Jimmy Broughton, April 1, 2002.

24.  ____________. Inteview with Terry Cox, May 3, 2002.

25.  Primack, Phil. “We all Work, Don’t We?” Columbia Journalism Review. Sept. 1992

26.  Riley, Nano. ” Hamlet: The Untold Story”. Aubrey Organics.  Winter 1995.

27.  Sheats, Nicky. “Lecture on Environmental Justice.” The College of New Jersey. April 15, 2002.

28.  Tabor, Mary. Poultry Plant Fire Churns Emotions Over Job Both Hated and Appreciated. New York Times. September 6, 1991.

29.  Wicker, Thomas G. E-mail to Kim Pearson. April 3, 2002

Of The Meaning of Progress: Today’s Black Journalists Within the Veil

Author’s note: This part of my unpublished 2002 essay, “Not the Subject but the Premise: Postcards from the Edge of Du Bois’ Black Belt,”  is reproduced here for comment and as fodder in the body of work upon which I am drawing for my sabbatical project. I consider it to be a failed work with some useful nuggets.

There were few institutions that escaped Du Bois’s critique, and the media was no exception. As editor of The Crisis, “[H]e challenged African-American newspapers to report on more serious social matters than weddings and murders,” David Levering Lewis recalled. (Biography, p. 416) Near the end of his life, Du Bois delivered his own considered judgment on the function and impact of mass media under monopoly capitalism. In a 1953 article in the Monthly Review, he declared,

“The organized effort of American industry to usurp government surpasses anything in modern history. From the use of psychology to spread the truth has come the use of organized gathering of news to guide public opinion and then deliberately to mislead it by scientific advertising and propaganda. This has led in our day to suppression of truth, omission of facts, misinterpretation of news, and deliberate falsehood on a wide scale. Mass capitalistic control of books and periodicals, news gathering and distribution, radio, cinema, and television has made the throttling of democracy possible and the distortion of education and failure of justice widespread.” (Lewis, Reader)

Just as the journalism of Du Bois’ era reflected the technological, political and cultural impact of the emergence of monopoly capitalism, contemporary journalists are struggling with the impact of the information-driven post-industrial economy. Black journalists are struggling not only to hold their own in an uncertain industry, but with their own sense of personal and professional mission.

“The media have an agenda,” says Natalie Byfield, former reporter for the New York Daily News, “and the agenda is to put across the message that the system works – whether it does or not.” (Byfield) Depending upon their experience and their underlying belief system, their conclusions about what’s not working may vary, but the disillusionment does not. As former Washington Post staffer and New York University professor Pamela Newkirk explained, “While black journalists occasionally succeed in conveying the richness and complexity of black life, they are often left…restricted by the narrow scope of the media, which tends primarily to exploit those fragments of African American life that have meaning for, and resonate with, whites.” (Newkirk, 5) Interestingly, Newkirk’s borrowed Du Bois’ metaphor for her book about black journalists’ experience in mainstream news, Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media.

Today, the number of minority students who seek journalism training is still relatively small. The number of journalism students of color who seek or stay in journalism careers is paltry. In the last decade, multiple studies and memoirs by black journalists and their professional organizations report that black newsroom staffers frequently find their expertise discounted, their news judgment questioned, and their work unfairly evaluated. (NABJ, Newkirk, Nelson) And while a flagging economy and corporate restructuring has hurt reporters of all races, the decline in the number of black journalists has been particularly steep.   (NABJ Journal, April 2002, pgs. 7-8)

Today, as the world’s dominant military and cultural power, America is loved and loathed, treasured and terrorized. The news industry is being simultaneously squeezed by corporate mergers and consolidations, and fragmented by social dislocation and the uneven proliferation of new technologies that make it possible for the economic elites of say, Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire to have an instant news and communications with Anaheim, California.

On the other hand, many working and middle-class Americans are less likely to read any newspaper at all, and millions rely on alternative news sources, such as late-night comedians and talk-show hosts, and news outlets with an explicit religious or ideological bent. Where the newspaper industry was expanding 100 years ago, both circulation figures and network news ratings have been sliding for years now. (New York Times Magazine) The industry’s response to these pressures has been bad for newsroom diversity.

As [Tom] Rosensteil, co-author of the book, The Elements of Journalism and executive director of the Washington DC-based Project for Excellence in Journalism told the NABJ Journal. (Davis, p, eight) “You need to have African Americans bringing different perspectives to the newsroom. The basic problem at the moment is that the newspaper industry does not seem to be interested in building circulation, but instead interested in building profit….”

Building circulation and building profit once were synonymous, but that’s no longer true. That’s partially because conglomerates now own many news organizations whose primary business is something else — and the earnings expectations are driven by the parent industry. So, Viacom, which owns the once-revered CBS News operation, expects its news operation to keep production costs down and ad revenue up. That mindset means such staples as investigative reporting and foreign reporting become luxury items. Reporting on poor neighborhoods and urban issues has been given short shrift as publishers chase advertiser-attractive suburban consumers.

In 2001, the highest-ranking African American in the newspaper industry, San Jose Mercury News publisher Jay Harris resigned to protest the industry’s devaluation of that larger social mission. Other respected veterans followed Harris’ lead. Sylvester Monroe, an assistant managing editor at the Mercury News, left the company in August, 2001 — ending 18 years as a staffer for nationally-recognized newspapers and magazines. Monroe told the NABJ Journal,  “My decision to leave was not just about possible layoffs. It was about what the unrealistic profit targets set by Knight Ridder [owners of the Mercury-News and several other major metropolitian papers] was doing to the character and culture of the newsroom. I went from hiring 16 people to identifying people for potential layoff in less than one year.” Monroe is now writing a book about the personal price that he and other black members of his Harvard undergraduate class as a foot soldier for Ivy League integration.

(Dawkins, p.11)

Journalists generally, and minority journalists in particular, are trying to understand what it means to function in a post-modern cultural environment in which truth claims, personal identity and community structures are contingent and contested. I bring this up in contrast to Du Bois’ contention that African American identity is shaped by opposing forces of racism and resilience that, depending upon white America’s response, would to either renew or destroy the nation.

Du Bois’ biological and intellectual hybridity make him the embodiment of his argument about the centrality and value of African Americans in the American project. It is reasonable to infer that he would feel African American journalists are equipped to make an essential contribution to the achievement of the Hegelian self-consciousness that he felt that the achievement of a society’s democratic potential required. However, the increasing corporatization of news that Du Bois perceived decades ago, along with the emergence of postmodern culture, complicates the realization of Du Bois’ ideals.

One measure of the distance between the nascent modernism of the era in which Souls was written and our own time is consider, momentarily, how difficult it would be to infer how someone with Du Bois’ ancestry, upbringing and education would define himself today. Would he, as Du Bois did, see himself as fundamentally African and American? Would he be part of the ‘multiracial movement” that succeeded in forcing the US government to change its categories in the 2000 US census? Given his careful delineation of the African American class structure, would he necessarily see a connection between his own destiny and the future of the one-third of African Americans who, according to the most recent government figures, remain below the poverty line?

It would be madness to presume to know the answers, but the point here is that African Americans’ responses to these questions, and the larger society’s response to African Americans — are more complex now than it was 100 years ago. Even if a modern-day Du Bois did perceive racial inequality as an important issue that affected him personally, one cannot logically infer that he would assume that he bore some mantle of racial loyalty or responsibility as a result. He might find himself in agreement with African American Harvard University Law professor Randall Kennedy who contended in a 1997 article for the Atlantic Monthly that, “The fact that race matters, however, does not mean that the salience and consequences of racial distinctions are good or that race must continue to matter in the future. Nor does the brute sociological fact that race matters dictate what one’s response to that fact should be.” (Kennedy)

Kennedy, a Princeton, Yale and Oxford graduate whose siblings are also Ivy-League educated legal professionals, argued that it is unjust and unwise for African Americans to claim kinship, pride or responsibility on the basis of race. African Americans should strive, Kennedy said, for the abolition of racial distinctions. Privileged blacks bear no special responsibility for the advancement of social justice; that responsibility belongs to all Americans.

Finally, Du Bois and his peers were acutely aware that whether they wanted it or not, their views and actions would affect racial policy and politics. Frederick Douglass called for the abolition of racial categories, but he knew that his pronouncement would be viewed as a black leaders’ statement about the aspirations of black people. The generation of leaders that followed him at the turn of the century held conferences to debate the future of the race; these evolved into political, fraternal and civic organizations that became the infrastructure of the black bourgeoisie. Since integration, the tight web of black colleges, greek-letter organizations, secret societies and church networks has become more diffuse, and the charge to” be a credit to the race” is not as consistently heard. Today, while one can speak of blacks in leadership positions in the news industry and elsewhere, it is more difficult to predict what, if any, racial responsibilities they think they have.

To be sure, black journalists and their allies have made prodigious efforts to improve the depth and sophistication of news coverage of African Americans and others who have historically been underrepresented or misrepresented in the news, and there are notable achievements, such as Bryant Gumbel’s successful effort to broadcast NBC’s “Today” show from Africa for one week. What’s more, the presence of blacks and other journalists of color in mainstream newsrooms has sometimes resulted in ground-breaking efforts to confront racial issues — most notably, The New York Times’ series, “How Race is Lived in America.” However, for every success, there are tales of frustration over what continues to look like a failure to assign equal value to the lives of people of color.

As I write this, for example, daily headlines for the last three weeks have covered the disappearance of affluent Utah teenager Elizabeth Smart. According to noted Black Studies scholar Lenworth Gunther, more than 800 stories have run on Smart. At the same time, Alexis Patterson, an black girl who disappeared three weeks before Smart, has been featured in fewer than 100 stories. (Gunther) These and other examples demonstrate that much work remains if the stated goal of serving democracy by covering all communities fairly is to be realized.

Of the Coming of WEB Du Bois

Author’s note: This part of my unpublished 2002 essay, “Not the Subject but the Premise: Postcards from the Edge of Du Bois’ Black Belt,”  is reproduced here for comment and as fodder in the body of work upon which I am drawing for my sabbatical project. I consider it to be a failed work with some useful nuggets.

WEB Du Bois clearly understood that journalistic portrayals of African Americans were drenched in racism, and that black journalists had an obligation to serve as ”the voices of the black nation.” In a 1943 article, he argued that black journalists were needed because,

“The American press in the past almost entirely ignored Negroes. Very little of what Negroes wanted to know about themselves, their group action, and their relationship to public occurrences to their interests was treated by the press. Then came the time when the American press so far as the Negro was concerned was interested in the Negro as minstrel, a joke, a subject of caricature. He became, in time, an awful example of democracy gone wrong, of crimes and various monstrous acts.” (Franklin)

In “Of the Black Belt,” Du Bois is a tour guide leading us into the real South behind the bougainvillea-and-mint-julep facade. From the beginning, we know that our guide is black  – we are reminded that we must travel in the Jim Crow car. The stage is set by a panoramic view of the region’s geography (“the stretch of pines and clay”) and history – from the time of the De Soto and the conquistadors, to “where Sam Hose was crucified.”(Du Bois, 103)

That Du Bois was playing to a white readership is also clear — at various points, he assumes his imaginary white reader’s point of view, and then carefully challenges what he sees as commonly held misconceptions. His challenges must be framed carefully for several reasons: they must conform to his evidence; he can not stray too far beyond his own Victorian sensibilities and finally, an intemperate tone risks not only alienating his white readers, but could precipitate racial violence.

The titles and epigrams of the two chapters are noteworthy for their ironic allusions. According to David Blight, The Black Belt referred both to the density of its black population and to Booker T. Washington’s description of its rich dark soil. (Du Bois, 208) While it would have been common to think of a black region as something evil and forbidding, Du Bois opens with haunting lines from the Song of Solomon: I am black but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem –“[italics mine]. (Du Bois, 103.) Du Bois’ use of the phrase also connotes a belt holds together the economies of the North and South, the past and the present.

Of the Quest of the Golden Fleece” borrows its title from the myth of Jason, who sets out in search of a golden ram’s fleece that he believes belongs to his family. Du Bois may be suggesting that those who are striving for a share of the region’s wealth – whether dispossessed plantation owner, Northern investor, or struggling black peasant – is seeking, against great odds, to recover what each sees as a birthright. However, because poetic dissection of the region’s economy gives particular attention to the grinding exploitation and racist belief system that spawned and sustained sharecropping and peonage, it is clear that to Du Bois’ thinking, the black peasantry is the heir denied.

For Du Bois, Dougherty County  —  “The Egypt of the Confederacy” –is representative of life throughout the “New South” of that day, “from Carolina to Texas across that Black and human sea. ” (Du Bois, 117) At the dawn of the last century, Dougherty County was a faded jewel in the crown of King Cotton – “the shadow of a marvelous dream.” (Du Bois, 107) It was a land of deserted plantations with nameless Northern owners, of dogged black farmers and desolate white widows, of families broken by death, desertion, desperation and despair. Cotton prices had been falling steadily during the last 40 years of the 19th century. Natural disasters, racism and economic strife fomented lynching, demagoguery and mass emigration to southern port cities and northern factory towns.

Implicitly, Du Bois’ compact and comprehensive description rebutted the dominant racial mythology of the period. This was the period in American history now known as the Nadir; in those days, it was commonly referred to as the Redemption. Jim Crow segregation was becoming entrenched, both in law and custom. Mainstream academic, popular and religious discourse characterized blacks as “beasts” (Carroll) who had contributed nothing to civilization (Hegel) and who could never be more than “half-devil and half-child.” (Kipling) No less an authority than New Jersey governor, future president and renowned historian Woodrow Wilson had portrayed the Civil War as a tragic fight between white brothers, and the Confederacy had become known as the noble Lost Cause. (Griffith)

Against this backdrop, Du Bois holds up the people of Dougherty County – taking care to present them as rounded characters, not caricatures. On a Saturday afternoon, he tells us, the county seat of Albany is filled with  “black, sturdy, uncouth country folk, good-natured and simple, talkative to a degree, and yet far more silent and brooding than the crowds of the Rhine-pfalz of Naples or Cracow.” (Du Bois 105)

We meet Benton, “an intelligent yellow man with a good sized family” who “might be well to do they say, but he carouses too much in Albany.” (Du Bois, 106) We see black tenant farmers whose endless toil will never satisfy the absentee landlord whose hand “stretches out of the gray distance to collect the rack-rent remorselessly, and so the land is uncared-for and poor. Only black tenants can stand such a system, and they only can because they must.” (Du Bois 107)

There were churches and schools that vary from “log-huts” to “a great whitewashed barn of a thing that seats 500.” (Du Bois 108) Mutual aid societies “to care for the sick and bury the dead” were flourishing.

Beyond and over everything, though, there is debt. “[T]he merchants are in debt to the wholesalers, the planters are in debt to the merchants, the tenants owe the planters, and the laborers bend beneath the burden of it all.” (Du Bois, 112)

Here and there, Du Bois meets a black landowner such as “gaunt, dull-black Jackson,” owner of 100 acres, who declares, “I says, ‘Look up!’ If you don’t look up you can’t get up.” (Du Bois, 112)

At the opposite extreme, he describes an encounter with a dispirited “big red-eyed black” who asks for news about the rumored police killing of a black boy in Albany, then adds:  “Let a white man touch me, and he dies; I don’t boast this — I don’t say it around loud or before the children, — but I mean it. …” (Du Bois, 114)

But Du Bois gives us much more than anecdotes. He gives us analysis, as in his advancement of the four reasons for the ragged homes in which the blacks live:

1.      The slavery-era tradition of giving blacks the worse housing on a plantation had persisted in the post-bellum era.

2.      The blacks make no demands for better housing.

3.      Unenlightened landlords fail to invest in proper maintenance.

4.      Harsh conditions have forced many blacks off the farm (Du Bois, 119-20)

He also gives us data – on marriage rates, economic classes, and population density. We get a precise breakdown of the class structure that is reminiscent of The Philadelphia Negro, which included a similar enumeration. Here, too, are the talented tenth (“the well-to-do and the best of the laborers”) and something like an incorrigible ‘submerged tenth’ (“at least nine percent are thoroughly lewd and vicious.” (Du Bois, 121)

Dougherty County, in short, is a place in which possibility seems inextricably yoked to pain, where fairness seems elusive, and where the pluckiest individuals find themselves buffeted by cruel circumstance.

“Honest and careful study” of black life, Du Bois is saying, required acknowledgment of this fundamental unfairness. It also required recognition of the full range of black humanity, and the development of its full potential through investments in higher education and the conferring of civil rights. Most importantly, it required recognition of human interdependence. “So the  Negro forms to-day one of the chief figures in a great world  industry, and this for its own sake, makes the field-hands of the cotton industry worth studying.” (Du Bois,118)

As progressive as Du Bois’ vision was for its time, his Victorian sensibilities infect his reporting with class bias and anti-Semitism. Both prejudices reflect blind spots in Du Bois’ thinking and interpretation of his own life experience.

First, Du Bois’ concept of mutuality draws upon Hegel’s idea that both master and slave could only attain true self-understanding by seeing themselves as they are seen by each other. [7] As with his acceptance of Hegel’s assertion that Africa and her progeny had yet to contribute to history, Du Bois’ position implied an acceptance of race, class and culture hierarchies that he would later reject.

Second, Du Bois makes several casual references to Jews as avaricious landowners that led to questions about whether he was anti-Jewish. In “Of the Black Belt,” he alleges that “[t]he Jew is the heir of the slave-baron in Dougherty;”(Du Bois 112)and that “[O]nly a Yankee or a Jew could squeeze more blood from debt-cursed tenants.”(Du Bois, 113)

In a note written for but not used in the 1953 edition, Du Bois acknowledged that the references “[illustrate] how easily one slips into unconscious condemnation of a whole group.” (Du Bois, 210) Du Bois’ use of language is particularly ironic in light of the fact that as a student in Europe, he sometimes experienced the prejudices of people who took him to be either a Jew or a Gypsy, and he saw bigotry visited upon people who were members of those groups. (Lewis, p.141)

Of the Dawn of “Objective” Journalism

Author’s note: This part of my unpublished 2002 essay, “Not the Subject but the Premise: Postcards from the Edge of Du Bois’ Black Belt,”  is being reproduced here for comment and as fodder in the body of work upon which I am drawing for my sabbatical project. I consider it to be a failed work with some useful nuggets.

Of the Dawn of “Objective” Journalism

Du Bois wrote Souls at time when both journalism and the social sciences were becoming defined as professions. David Mindich has shown persuasively that the objective journalism model  — the “just the facts” approach to news — emerged gradually between 1830 and 1896. Mindich identified five key elements of the traditional definition of objective journalism:

•            Detachment

•            Non-partisanship

•            Facticity

•            Inverted pyramid story structure (relating the key facts first, then adding details in succeeding order of importance),

•            Balance (presenting two sides of a story — which usually means presenting quotes from opposing experts.) (Mindich)

Before the rise of the objective journalism model, a newspaper or journal of opinion was likely to be a jumble of factual accounts, fiction, gossip and polemic. Most journalists were freelance “correspondents;” 19th century media owners were sole proprietors who sometimes also served as postmasters and owned printing businesses. Many newspapers and magazines were explicitly linked to political parties or causes; this became less true as the century wore on.

By the end of the 19th century, American journalists had become scouts and ambassadors for a country that was just ascending to imperial power. William Mc Kinley declared that God had told him to wage bloody guerilla war in the Philippines, Commodore Perry demanded that Japan open her borders to American industry, and Yankee grit and ingenuity had split the hemisphere at the Isthmus of Panama. At Worlds’ Fairs and exhibitions from Chicago to Buffalo to Paris, Americans portrayed themselves as the avatars of civilization. American newspapers and magazines celebrated and debated the perquisites and perils of empire. The media of that day helped white Americans, particularly, forge a new consensus about their new place in the world. Others – Native Americans, along with some European, Asian and Latin American immigrants, and especially people of African descent, found themselves placed on progressively lower rungs on the continuum between civilization and barbarity.

For black journalists in a culture in which scientific racism was normative, adherence to the tenets of objective journalism was logically and existentially absurd. Then, too, so was daring to tell the truth. Du Bois’ contemporaries, Ida Wells Barnett, Pauline Hopkins, Monroe Trotter and others, would endure death threats, ostracism and other forms of condemnation for reporting on and crusading against lynching and other outrages.

In fact the New York Times, then as now considered the apotheosis of objective journalism, specifically savaged Wells as, “a nasty-minded mulatress, who does not scruple to represent the victims of black brutes in the south as willing victims.” (Mindich, p. 128) Wells’ sin was that she dared to independently investigate official accounts of lynchings, and frequently found them to be false.  The Times’ typical lynching story, written in third-person, inverted pyramid style, presented the summary mob execution of black men as a given communities’ understandable reaction to black rapists that preyed on innocent white women and girls. Wells reported that in many instances, the black men were involved in consensual relationships with their purported victims. Sometimes they were even married. In other instances, the precipitating incident had been falsely reported as rape, when in it was actually, for example, a dispute of over unpaid wages.

The errors in the Times‘ accounts were generally based on flawed, racist premises: that southern sheriffs or correspondents were reliable of disinterested sources and that academic, religious and political “experts” were reliable informants about the South and the Negro. Wells’ reporting was dangerous both because it exposed those flawed premises, and because, in the worldview from which they emerged and that the Times helped sustain, her black female mind and body were not supposed to be capable of amassing and presenting such a powerful indictment. (Mindich, p. 128-30.)

Du Bois compiled the essays in Souls of Black Folk at a time when he realized that empirical evidence of black humanity would neither end racism nor result in reasoned public policy. He had provided such evidence in the The Philadelphia Negro; Wells had done it in The Red Record; many others had done it as well. Neither sociological analysis nor factual reporting had quelled the lynch mobs or prevented blacks from being thrown out their elected offices, turned away at the polls, and dispossessed from whatever land or goods they had managed to acquire. Especially, scholarship and probity had not protected his only son, Burghardt from the deadly effects of wretched Jim Crow living conditions.

Du Bois reached, therefore, for a journalistic form that was authoritative, empirical, but also rhetorically effective. As he explained in his 1944 essay, “My Evolving Program for Negro Freedom:” his writing during this period, “was directed at the majority of white Americans, and rested on the assumption that once they realized the scientifically attested truth concerning Negroes and race relations, they would take action to correct all wrong.” By the turn of the century, his platform had expanded to encourage, “united action on the part of thinking Americans, black and white, to force the truth concerning Negroes on the attention of the nation.” (Lewis, Reader, p. 617-18)

Still, Du Bois’s journalism fit Mindich’s definition of objectivity in several important respects. It was detached, in that his work was not explicitly tied to a particular political faction or party. It was non-partisan, particularly, in its effort to walk a line between Booker T. Washington’s conservatism and such radicals as his Harvard friend, Monroe Trotter, publisher of the flame-throwing Guardian. Although he attributed sources in a way that would not be acceptable today, there is no question that he strove for factual reporting. With a style more suited to interpretive news features than hard news, he was unlikely to use the inverted pyramid. Finally, while he never pretended to be neutral on the matters of race and equality, he did present contrary interpretations of his evidence – interpretations that he proceeded to meticulously refute.