If Journalism is the First Rough Draft of History, What Are Vegans Building for the Animals Today?
If it’s all just products and personalities, the animals will be sidelined from their own story.
“Journalism is the first rough draft of history.”
I heard this quote for the first time the other day, a quote that a little digging revealed is kind of a chestnut among journalists but it was the first time I’d heard it. It is often attributed to a long-ago publisher of the Washington Post, now thought to have originated with a New Republic book reviewer. Regardless of the originator, this quote has been going through my head ever since because it is so perfectly salient, putting a fine point to the importance of vegans creating a solid, strong foundation for what we write about or, in the case of opinion journalism, the importance of building a clear, persuasive argument. “Journalism is the first rough draft of history.” Goosebumps.
If you think about how journalists write about veganism and animal rights in 2021 as a time capsule or guideposts for future generations trying to understand the state of things, what would be the take away? More significantly, if you believe that what we write about veganism and animal rights today will form the bedrock of how it evolves and what it evolves into, isn’t it crucial that we keep this front of mind with the stories we pitch, report on, click on and share? If we use the framework of thinking about journalism as what history becomes, wouldn’t we want to be very mindful about both our messaging and our messengers?
This brings me to another quote rattling around in my head lately: historians are fond of saying that history doesn’t repeat itself; it rhymes. To be in the driver’s seat of the future we want to build for the vegan movement and for animals, we need to be thinking today what we want to focus on and what we want to deprive of oxygen. Is the future we are building today going to manifest as one of centering people, emphasizing shallow and uncertain personal benefits and random products, or is it going to be a muscular, inclusive and dynamic movement rooted in the rich, loamy soil of social justice movements? No two people are necessarily going to see this the same way, and we…