Interview with Ms. Gallagher, Before Her Visit to Ferguson

Frani O’Toole Co-Editor-in-Chief   Ms. Gallagher, Hon. American Politics and US Social teacher, is spending the night of December 1st to the night of December 2nd in Ferguson, MO. She is traveling to Ferguson, as she explains below, as a teacher and as a journalist. To learn more, you can visit her website, You can also follow her Twitter accounts (@SupremeBystandr and @AmPolLatin), where she’ll be posting updates during her trip.    Q: What are your reasons for going down to Ferguson first as a teacher, then as a journalist, etc.? A: I approach everything I write about as a teacher first and reporter/journalist second.  The primary question I focus on in my approach to covering stories – be they constitutional, human, or educational stories – is “how would I explain this story/event to my students if they asked me about it?”  Answering that question usually helps me figure out how to break down a story into smaller parts that are accessible to a wide audience, especially a young audience.  When I’m in the Court, the language used by the justices, experts, and reporters inside are inaccessible to most people, even those with college degrees.  These are incredibly important cases that have significant consequences to most, if not all, Americans.  It’s my job to make sure everyone understands the cases, the stories, and consequences of these significant events. I see the events in Ferguson as very similar to stories about law and justice I’ve covered over the years.  I’m going down there with an organization called Eastern Educational Resource Collaborative, who do diversity work with primary and secondary schools, to understand what’s happened since August 9th from people who are a part of the Ferguson community. Q: What are some of your expectations? Concerns? A: Any time I travel I try to make a concerted effort to have no expectations.  When I approach a story or case I try to make the same effort so that those expectations don’t interfere with the writing and presentation of the story.  That said, I’m concerned that vestiges of biases from news coverage I’ve read and watched over the last week may creep into my conversations or into my writing.  I’m a human being though, and all human beings bring their own bias to every story.  As long as I’m honest about that and honest in my approach to retelling what I experienced. Q: As a journalist, what’s your opinion on the media’s coverage of Ferguson? A: It’s fraught with sensationalism.  When 24-hour news channels must fill the air waves with words, without pauses or breaks to digest the information they’re getting in real time, they’re going to over-dramatize to hold viewers’ attentions.  I read more of the coverage than watched it.  Twitter was my preferred host for news as the events unfolded last week.  There’s a more measured and deliberate approach a writer takes to a story than a television host or anchor.  I’ve found writers to be less noisy than television journalists.  Of course, C-SPAN’s coverage was excellent! Q: How do you think Ferguson relates to the Latin community? A: The events in Ferguson stem from ongoing topics about what differentiates equity from equality, race in America, and social justice.  They involved people who are roughly the same age, or close to, Latin community members.  All of these factors make the discussion about Ferguson relatable to the Latin community.  I’ve overhead and been a part of numerous discussions about these topics at Latin and see each person working, sometimes struggling, to understand what they personally believe about race, justice, and law.  They talk here because they have someone or people who they feel safe talking to in this community. Q: How have you approached the subject in your classroom? How would you like to see Latin open a dialogue about Ferguson? A: I’ve had classes of students talking about the shooting since the second week of school.  Students have wanted to talk about it in class since then so it’s been an ongoing discussion that has come up in all of my classes (American Politics and U.S. Social History) this semester.  I’ve also been a part of the meetings before school, back in September, in which students and staff came together to practice talking about race in America, the Latin community, and Chicago.  We need to keep talking, in affinity groups, open clubs/groups, and school-wide. Q: Can you think of any other avenues for students, faculty, etc., to get involved? A: Stay informed and keep reading coverage of the people and events in Ferguson and around the nation.  This story and the discussions about race, equity, social justice, and law enforcement dissolve once we stop clicking on the articles, watching the videos and television reports.  Follow the #Ferguson on Twitter.  Check out these organizations that are doing things to help people.  ]]>