When Representation Isn’t Enough:
Rethinking Journalism Objectivity and Changing Practice

On February 23, 2021, the Diederich College of Communication welcomed panelists Marissa EvansWesley Lowery, Linda Steiner, and David Umhoefer to the 2021 Nieman Symposium, moderated by Dr. Ayleen Cabas-Mijares.

The 2021 Nieman Symposium focuses on a timely critique of the history, impact, and value of objectivity in American journalism. As journalism in the U.S. evolved, its principles and practices grew alongside the dominant white (male, cisgender, and heterosexual) perspective. In this context, the principle of objectivity has virtually been conflated with whiteness, resulting in the silencing, stereotyping and/or distorting of BIPOC identities, and issues.In this symposium, prominent journalists and media scholars will reflect together on this history and discuss how the journalism profession can improve its quality, regain BIPOC communities’ trust, and fulfill its promise of guarding democracy.


About the Panelists

Marissa EvansMarissa Evans is the social issues reporter for the Star Tribune where she writes about housing, race, health, affordability and equity issues in the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota. While reporting for the Texas Tribune in Austin, she won a 2018 Online News Association award in explanatory reporting for her project on Texas' maternal mortality crisis. She's a previous Carter Center Mental Health Reporting fellow and a Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting grantee where she traveled to Poland to report on how the country prevents maternal mortality. Her reporting has appeared in Medium, O the Oprah Magazine, the Atlantic, Civil Eats, CQ Roll Call, Cosmo for Latinas, Kaiser Health News, the Seattle Times, the Washington Post, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service. She's an alumna of Marquette University.

Wesley LoweryWesley Lowery is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author and correspondent for CBS News. Lowery was previously a national correspondent at the Washington Post, specializing in issues of race and law enforcement. He led the team awarded the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2016 for the creation and analysis of a real-time database to track fatal police shootings in the United States. His most recent project, Murder With Impunity, an unprecedented look at unsolved homicides in major American cities, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2019. His first book, They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement, was a New York Times bestseller and was awarded the Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose by the LA Times Book Prizes.

Linda SteinerDr. Linda Steiner is a Professor in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, and director of the ADVANCE program in the Office of Faculty Affairs at the University of Maryland - College Park. She worked for a weekly newspaper in upstate New York before going to the University of Illinois-Urbana, where she completed her Ph.D. A former editor of Critical Studies in Media Communication, she is now editor of Journalism & Communication Monographs. Her co-authored or co-edited books include The Routledge Companion to Media and Gender, Women and Journalism, Key Concepts in Critical Cultural StudiesThe Handbook of Gender and WarNews of Baltimore: Race, Rage and the CityJournalism, Gender and Power, and, most recently, Front Pages, Front Lines: Media and the Fight for Women's Suffrage. Steiner was president of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, and chaired a task force that wrote a Code of Ethics for the association.

Dave UmhoeferDave Umhoefer toiled happily for 32 years keeping an eye on local government and law enforcement as a reporter and editor for the Milwaukee Journal and Journal Sentinel. He helped establish a PolitiFact state operation and a Watchdog team, worked from many cramped bureau offices, and won a 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting for a dull but important government pension scandal expose. Wisconsin born and bred, proud native of La Crosse and journalism graduate from UW-Madison, Wisconsin Watchdog Award winner 2014. A longtime advanced journalism instructor at Marquette University, where he was in residence in 2015-16 as a reporting fellow for the O'Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism documenting the impact on Wisconsin schools of the 2011 push to gut teacher's union power. He now directs the fellowship, helping guide Marquette student journalists and professionals on nine-month reporting projects aiming to make change. Umhoefer Lives in the Story Hill neighborhood near Miller Park and his beloved Brewers along with his wife, Gretchen Schuldt, a former reporter who fights for criminal justice reform seven days a week.

About the Moderator

Ayleen Cabas-MijaresDr. Ayleen Cabas-Mijares is an assistant professor of journalism and media studies and a faculty fellow of the Institute for Women’s Leadership at Marquette University. She worked as a reporter and copy editor of a national women’s magazine in Venezuela, her home country, before coming to the U.S. to pursue her graduate studies. Dr. Cabas-Mijares graduated with a M.S. in Journalism from Ohio University and a doctorate from the Missouri School of Journalism. Her research interests focus on the critical examination of the role of media and journalism in social change. Specifically, Dr. Cabas-Mijares investigates media activism in Latin America and the Latinx diaspora.

About the Nieman Symposium

The Lucius W. Nieman Symposium, named after the founder of The Milwaukee Journal, Lucius W. Nieman, is an annual event sponsored by the J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication. 

The Nieman Symposium and Speaker Series is currently chaired by Dr. Ana Garner, Marquette University Professor of Journalism and Department Chair of Journalism and Media Studies. Past Nieman Chairs include Dr. Bonnie Brennen, former Professor of Journalism at Marquette University; Philip Seib, Professor of Journalism at USC Annenberg; Richard H. Leonard of The Milwaukee Journal; Albion Ross of The New York Times; and Scott Klug, former U. S. congressman and CEO of Trails Media Group.