#StephonClark: When Reporting the News Becomes Personal

A photo of Stephon Clark’s grandmother Sequita Thompson (center), taken by my friend who attended the family’s press conference with me
A photo of Stephon Clark’s grandmother Sequita Thompson (center), taken by my friend who attended the family’s press conference with me
Photo: Jon Crisp

As journalists, we are taught that it is our job to deliver news and information objectively. Opinions are saved for editorials and commentary pieces. We have to look at the story and tell it without bias.


Or so we are taught.

But what happens when the story becomes personal? What happens when every fiber of your being is telling you that something in the milk ain’t clean, and unless we continue to call out the bullshit every single time, this is going to continue to happen?

This is what the Stephon Clark story has been for me: personal.

I am a black woman. I have a black brother. I have a black nephew. I have a black sister.

We look like Stephon Clark. We look like Terence Crutcher. We look like Sandra Bland. We are the same black as all of these police victims, and we could be any one of them.

It’s personal.

When I asked The Root’s editor-in-chief, Danielle Belton, if I could go up to Sacramento, Calif., to report from the ground, she immediately said yes.


I was there for a week. I attended protests. I attended news conferences. I was at the infamous City Council meeting. I saw pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu diagram the shooting and heard him say where the bullets hit. I spoke with activists, organizers, community leaders, scared and angry mothers, and teenage boys who felt like they could have been Clark.

It was physically draining, emotionally exhausting, anxiety-inducing and, at times, scary.


But it was all so worth it.

This shooting was not the first. It obviously was not the last. But it is so important because it has reignited the discussion on the extrajudicial shootings of black men at the hands of police. It has made people question just how valid “I was in fear for my life” really is (pro tip: It’s not valid).


It’s given us a new wake-up call and made all of us understand how much more we have to fight to bring an end to this genocide.

Because that’s just what this is: genocide.

On Wednesday night, I told Danielle that I wanted to go back to Sacramento, and she agreed that I should.


This is a story that I take personally, and I am not going to stop saying his name until we have a real resolution.

This is the part where I raise my black fist in the air and y’all join me in solidarity.


Enough is enough.

We are tired.

(Here is an awesome video that recaps my coverage last week. Please watch it because I could not have caught all of these interviews and written about them without the help of my producer, Yasmin Nouh.)



Those cops in the video, all decked out in their bullet proof helmets and with Kevlar covering their chests and even their legs are ready at any moment to “fear for their lives.”

They are an occupying army carrying out intimidation and control, and not much else. They’re as well protected as armadillos, yet juries (if it even gets that far) believe they “feared for their lives and the lives of their fellow officers.”