Baratunde Thurston. That’s What’s Up.


Baratunde Thurston spoke at the journalism school last week. Do I really have to say more? Have you heard of this guy?! He’s fantastic. He’s from DC, went to Harvard, was a consultant for some time, then a digital director at The Onion, all while doing stand-up comedy on the side, and now he has started his own company called Cultivated Wit.

He also wrote the New York Times bestseller, How To Be Black. That book has been on my reading list for ages and it shames me that I have not gotten to it yet. He talked about a lot of things ranging from his own family history, where he thinks the future of journalism is heading, the influence of technology on journalism, and of course, race.

Naturally, I found him inspiring because he manages to do what he loves without abandoning topics that interest him. In his case, he’s interested in technology and race. And he’s able to weave those subjects into his journalism in a humorous and enlightening way that actually makes people want to read his work.

His quick bullet points on what’s happening/changing in journalism:

  • Ubiquitous creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Information surplus
  • Trust deficit
  • Constant change
  • Distribution of good ideas
  • Experimentation is basically free

It’s a really exciting time in journalism and it’s great to hear someone like him talk about it rather than some news anchor. The guy sitting at a news desk in front of the camera is what I think of as being old, traditional journalism. This new digital surge of energy flowing into the journalism industry sounds way more exciting to me and frankly, it looks like it’s going to be way more diverse too. Both in terms of gender and race.

At the end of Baratunde’s talk, one guy came up to the microphone and basically asked what can white people do to combat racism. It was kind of hilarious because I’m pretty sure all of us in the audience just turned to Baratunde thinking, “Yaaay he’s gonna solve racism!”

Out of the many suggestions he had, one part stuck out to me and that’s when he said to get a black friend (or really any minority). And actually be friends with them. In the sense that you trust and respect them enough to share your ideas and what you’re feeling. Essentially, talk about race with them. I know I have white friends who don’t ever talk to me about race. Even if it comes up casually in conversation, it’s always brushed aside quickly for a more neutral subject, like how crazy Miley Cyrus is.

Besides that, Baratunde wrote a blog post specifically about this called “Ways White People of Goodwill (And Anyone Else) Can Help End Racism”. Super useful.

On that note, I’m going to end this with a clip of Key and Peele‘s stand-up comedy. Because sometimes you just need two half black/half white guys to wrap up a random post about Baratunde Thurston, journalism, digital media, and race.