On Nov. 28, in the Getty Lounge, the journalism minor organized a talk featuring former San Francisco Bay Guardian colleagues Adam Clay Thompson, investigative journalist and staff reporter for ProPublica, and journalism professor Timothy Redmond.
Thompson, who is now documenting the rise of white nationalists across the country, focused mainly on his career as an investigative journalist as well as breaking down his past stories. He discussed his non-traditional entry into journalism: running a printing press for a hip-hop magazine where he realized he had greater interest in writing articles rather than printing them. After high school, Thompson attended a training program called “Youth Outlook” to cultivate his writing ability.
He would later go on to work for the Bay Guardian, where he and Redmond worked together to help free two innocent men framed by the San Francisco Police Department and sentenced to life in prison. “[Thompson’s] never been afraid to put it all out there to get the story that needs to be done, and he has done a long series of stories that no one else would have touched [and] that no one else could have done, and the world is a better place for those stories,” Redmond said.
During his time at the Bay Guardian, Thompson received the George Polk Award for his 2005 series reporting on the unfathomable public housing conditions in San Francisco.
Thompson then worked for SF Weekly and the Center for Investigative Reporting. His current employer, ProPublica, a non-profit news outlet in New York City, teamed up with FRONTLINE, an investigative documentary series. Thompson investigates white nationalist groups in the series, such as the Rise Above Movement (RAM), with a focus on the criminal justice system.
During the discussion at USF, Thompson encouraged a conversation about bringing about justice through investigative reporting. He emphasized writing from the perspective of average people and the power of gathering documents and evidence that can change the course of a story. For this, he referred to his discovery of a series of murderous hate crimes by the New Orleans Police Department after Hurricane Katrina.
“I call this the ‘excavation of now,’” Thompson said. “We are out there to unravel mysteries. We are out there to uncover buried truths that people do not want told. Our job as investigative reporters is not to tell the easy story. Our job is to tell the stories that no one wants told.” He follows this same mission when shining a light on the failures of law enforcement in preventing violent white supremacists crimes.