Elle.com, the online version of the women’s style magazine Elle, announced it is joining a project coalition led by nonprofit investigative journalism outlet ProPublica in order to offer its readers a place to report hate crimes and bias incidents. The collaboration is an example of the important roles women-centered outlets are playing in the world of political journalism.
With its diverse audience and newsroom -- and its focus on personal stories -- Elle.com will help ProPublica's “Documenting Hate” project reach a broader population, translating into more accurate reporting.
ProPublica, a public interest journalism nonprofit, launched the project last November in an effort to “create a national database [of hate crimes] for use by journalists, researchers and civil-rights organizations." ProPublica explained that it hoped to partner with a variety of news outlets, schools, and civil rights groups to document hate crimes and incidents of identity-based harassment and intimidation systematically, since the federal government’s documentation of these instances is not comprehensive (emphasis added):
Groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the New York Police Department report a recent uptick in bias incidents and hate crimes. But with thousands of police departments failing to report alleged or even confirmed hate crimes to the FBI, we lack foundational information about how many such crimes occur in any given year, where they might occur the most and least, who the targets of such crimes tend to be, and how this has changed over time.
The “Documenting Hate” project already listed several notable identity-specific outlets as partners on this commendable project, including The Root, Univision News, Latino USA, New America Media, and The Advocate. On January 31, Elle.com joined their ranks with a simple post explaining the lack of comprehensive hate crime data available to reporters and the public. It concluded by encouraging readers to share details of hate crimes they’d experienced at ProPublica’s website and wrote, “We need to hear it.”
Elle’s announced participation in the “Documenting Hate” project is in line with the fearless, reader-oriented commitment to political reporting that many were somehow surprised to find in the pages of women’s magazines and websites during the 2016 presidential race. In fact, it all makes perfect sense.
Elle.com, like other women-focused outlets, is helmed by a woman and features, almost exclusively, women writers. In addition to editorial director Leah Chernikoff and executive editor Chloe Schama, the site recently welcomed former MSNBC host and professor Melissa Harris-Perry as editor-at-large, with her work focusing on “the intersection of race, gender, politics, and yes, even fashion, telling the often-overlooked stories of women and girls of color” across Elle’s platforms. The young women and women of color leading the way at Elle.com mirror the demographics of their readers -- populations that are also significantly more likely to experience identity-based violence according to the limited data that’s already available.
Elle is one of many women’s outlets that have published work this post-election season that has uplifted individual experiences that aren’t otherwise told in mainstream media, and has highlighted quality political reporting from and about often-overlooked voices. This latest move seems to signal that Elle is not only planning to keep telling stories that speak to women -- especially young women and women of color -- it’s ready to listen to them, too. With a presidential administration that’s infinitely more hostile to both members of the press and the women who make up Elle's newsrooms and audience, now is the time for more identity-based outlets to step up.
Image created by Sarah Wasko.