Backbone NC
journalism with a policy backbone
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The big backstory

The big backstory

Backbone NC aspires to influence policy with journalism. We know the lines between "influence," "policy," and "journalism" can be blurred in a dangerous way, so this is exactly what our viewers can expect:

Backbone NC abides by the NPPA Code of Ethics in earnest. In short, we do ethical work. We seek out the unnoticed perspective and tell the story with deference to the truth. We avoid stereotypes. We avoid manipulation of perspectives, in person and in the editing room. We avoid reactionary, buzz-oriented coverage; we follow issues, not "events." We take our sweet time to get it right.

But where people may take issue with Backbone, is a perceived conflict of interest between seeking the truth and seeking particular policy changes. After all, journalism should avoid "political, civic and business involvements" that would compromise the outlet's "journalistic independence." Journalism should avoid an angle; journalism should present the facts alone; journalism shouldn't take sides. 

We just disagree. There is a difference between good policy and bad. It is bad that some UNC employees must live in government-subsidized housing. It is bad that the Old Well is not wheelchair accessible. It is bad that people are sentenced to life in prison for non-violent drug crimes, regardless of the details in their cases, all because a crude "sentencing chart," marked with x and y-axes denoting type and quantity, said so.

At Backbone, a moral judgment is made before, and coincides with, pursuits of truth and perspective. A wrong is identified, ethically investigated, and presented –– given our high standards are met. But we are open to being proven wrong entirely. And when there are two or more sides to an issue, we will provide the counter argument(s) along with the unnoticed. When the unnoticed is well received by the UNC administration or relevant governing body, and the political will is there, but the budget is not (as is the case with many perceived "moral wrongs"), Backbone will proudly assist with the necessary fundraising efforts to actually implement a good policy change. And like other platforms seeking change above publicity, in certain cases Backbone will not publish incriminating material if the relevant body chooses to course-correct upon its review. We are not here to prosecute. We are here to get stuff done.

To be clear, we are not wholly abandoning objectivity – we are putting it in its place. Every journalist and photojournalist should relinquish their subjective desires in the pursuit of truth. Every perceived wrong should be "ethically investigated," not exploited after a snapshot moral judgment. We intend to embody these practices of objectivity – and use them to determine the correct presentation, along with the correct policy ask(s). Traditional news outlets too often shy away from what's correct for fear of losing "objectivity." We don't. 

Finally, whether or not you agree with the process, Backbone makes a promise of full transparency. Before each photo story, our viewers can read "the Backstory": a short write-up on the premise of the project, what we found out and how, as well as the counter-perspective(s) or practical obstacles against our ultimate policy ask. Honesty is perhaps our most sacred principle and promise. 

Thank you for engaging in real problems. Backbone NC is trying to make that less difficult. 



Backbone NC will also present the occasional community feature, without a specific policy aim