Doing the Work of the Social Justice Movement Through Storytelling

Megan Finnerty, Senior Director & Founder, Storytellers Brand Studio

The best way to understand someone is to listen to their story.

Told in their own words. In their own way. About their own life as they experience it.

Which is why USA TODAY’s Storytellers Project is launching a series called I Am…, 5 nights of true storytelling dedicated to personal stories about American life through the lens of race and ethnicity.

· I Am Black - Jan 12

· I Am Indigenous – March 2

· I Am Hispanic – March 30

· I Am Asian – Aug. 31

· I Am Middle Eastern – Oct. 5

During the pandemic, the Storytellers Project has pivoted to online shows, garnering more than 1 million views on social media, and maintaining their national presenting sponsor in Humana and several regional supporting sponsors. The shows have proven the power of a well-told story to inspire curiosity and connection – even online only – with an average of 2K engagements per show and hundreds of thousands of views each.

The I Am… series in particular is a way to lift up the voices of non-dominant identity groups with minimal mediation so Americans can hear from each other, directly building empathy and understanding.

Beyond that, they are a way for those outside certain identity groups to hear stories in a way that is emotionally safe, and we hope this encourages curiosity about people who might not think they have much in common.

As one of America’s largest media organizations, we have an obligation and an opportunity to pass the mic and amplify the voice. This new series is just one component of a larger, sustained effort from the USA TODAY Network to ensure more comprehensive, fair and representative coverage of communities of color.

Leadership has committed to newsrooms that reflect the ethnic and racial demographics of their communities by 2025, and to an increase in staffing and new beats to better tell America’s complex stories.