Best Journalist

One of the trickiest questions facing any reporter is how do you get to the center of the action of a story without becoming the story? The implied moral judgment is that a good reporter should never allow him- or herself to become part of the story. But this notion too often allows so-called journalists to step away from the events happening before them so that, in an effort to remain neutral and objective no matter the situation, they end up producing stories that lack perspective. One reporter who already knows the difference is OC Weekly‘s former intern and current contributor, Frank John Tristan. Although he came to the Weekly with a background in music and culture that has led to incisive reporting on the county’s punk, hip-hop and graffiti scenes, nothing could prepare the 22-year-old for what happened in March, when a pro-Trump rally attended by various alt-right and neo-Nazi protesters suddenly turned violent, and the fascists began targeting Weekly photographer Brian Feinzimer. Tristan intervened to protect his colleague and got beat on by a fat fuck, then a white supremacist, all while California State Park Peace Officers did nothing. Despite the chaos of the moment, Tristan provided the definitive account of the melee. Though it was initially dismissed as fake news by the world, it ended up drastically changing the media coverage of the event that followed and forced the Orange County district attorney’s office to drop charges against four of five antifa wrongfully arrested that day. If journalism has a future, let’s hope it involves the type of guts displayed by Tristan—we need more reporters like him.

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