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What Makes a Good Social Justice Story?

Photo of Michael McVeigh of Jesuit Publications accepting an award at the Australasian Catholic Press Association Awards 2016

Reflection by Sandie Cornish.

An Invitation

I was flattered and a bit surprised by the invitation to judge the social justice category of the 2016 Australasian Catholic Press Association Awards. It turned out to be an interesting and thought provoking exercise.

There was such a broad field of entrants from different kinds of publications and different geographical and cultural contexts. This in itself demonstrates widespread recognition of the importance of justice and truth in the Christian story. The entries also came in a variety of formats. There were feature stories in glossy monthly magazines, news articles in weekly papers, a series of articles, material designed for modest regional print publications and for electronic formats with national and international reach.

A Question

The opportunity to judge the social justice category of the ACPA Awards prompted me to reflect on the important question:

What makes a good social justice story?

After pondering the question for some time, I came up with a range of factors that I think are helpful. Here are my criteria. I asked does the story:
– address an important or neglected issue of social justice rather than charitable activities
– address or raise probing questions about causes rather than simply describing situations
– give those who experience injustice or exclusion a face and a voice
– connect the experiences of actual people with structural and/or policy level considerations
– engage with complexity and ambiguity rather than oversimplifying complex multi-factoral issues and situations
– present relevant facts, quote reputable sources and accurately cite sources of information
– demonstrate groundedness in Christian sources, especially scripture and Catholic Social Teaching
– empower the reader by providing examples of or suggestions for action responses
– engage and hold the reader’s attention, taking them on a journey into the issue or situation
– have a clear, logical structure.

And the Winner is …

It was still difficult to decide on just one winner and one highly commended award. Some entries addressed one or two of the criteria very well while others touched on a number of them.

In the end, I awarded the prize to Fatima Measham’s article The White Male Gaze that Drives Child Sex Tourism published in Eureka Street. John Sandy’s article Just Being Kept Alive is Not a Life published in Aurora was highly commended. I give my reasons here -scroll down to Category 7.

So, how would you answer the question: what makes a good social justice story?

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