The first meeting of the Flux staff took place in mid-November, a few days after the election. Seventeen journalism students squeezed into a corner conference room. They nervously exchanged introductions and asked about logistics, easing into a familiar drive as they finally arrived at what really mattered: What stories needed telling?
In that post-election moment, our thoughts on the future of journalism were tinged with doubt. The professionals in our field were under attack, facing a people who sought truth and felt they’d been fed tricks. Maybe this criticism was warranted. After all, the press made false predictions. It’d told the wrong stories, missing the greater American narrative. And it’d contributed to — if not bore responsibility for — an increasing sense of division. What, if anything, could we do about all that?
Not everything, but surely some- thing. We couldn’t fix journalism, but maybe we could take some risks and try something new. We could write about politics, but do it in a way that transcended the haze of rhetoric and speculation and red and blue. We could find the stories that made it personal, not ‘political’ in the way we’ve come to think of the term. What we wanted were stories of democracy — the people behind the policies, the un- sung heroes who pushed for change in their communities.
We rolled up our sleeves and searched Oregon high and low, in fields and office buildings, bars and classrooms, for stories of politics at work on a personal level. From a
transgender synth musician to the man fighting anti-vaccination propaganda to a teenage Nordic skier suing for climate change, we discovered democracy again and again, flu- id, forward-looking and formidable in its power. In this issue of Flux, we offer a look at that lofty and static ideology, democracy, as the living, breathing thing we believe it to be.
Early in the course of our reporting, we realized that traditional information gathering only goes so far. Our role as journalists is not to dominate the conversation, but to guide it. Seeking a better method of listening, we devised the Dear Oregon project. We asked citizens from all corners of the state to share their perspectives on their communities in their own words (you can read some of their letters on page 30).
The conversation we started on that mid-November day would continue for the next seven months, twisting and evolving as we produced Flux. But there was one thing we never wavered on: Stories still matter. In a world that seems increasingly fragmented, journalism gets to the truth of what unifies us. Our stories on democracy reveal the triumphs, losses and slow, steady commitment of our fellow citizens. We hope in reading them, you’ll find a less divisive form of democracy.
Emily Olson, Editor-In-Chief