In this week’s edition of ’10 minutes with…’, The Independent’s Josh Marcus sits down with Newsworks to talk about “the most impactful piece of US media in a generation”, what’s on his eclectic beat right now and an extremely messy fantasy dinner party…
How did you get into journalism?
Growing up, NPR was seemingly always on in the background. My parents subscribed to a forest-decimating (but mind-enriching) number of magazines. So I was exposed to journalism via osmosis.
By the time I was in high school, I was a big podcast kid, and I started devouring books about the War on Terror like Steve Coll’s ‘Ghost Wars’. Seeing the world, talking to interesting people, holding those in power accountable, it seemed like a decent way to live.
I got a job at my local paper, ‘The Monterey County Weekly’, and I was hooked.
Why does journalism matter?
Journalism is an attempt to represent the world around us. You’re telling readers: this is important, this is how things are, this is why things are happening.
That is a kind of power that influences politics and culture. It’s on us as reporters to use it the right way.
Best scoop (yours or someone else’s)?
It’s not exactly a scoop, and it didn’t come from a journalist, but Darnella Frazier’s video of Minneapolis police killing George Floyd is the most impactful piece of US media in a generation. It showed America a version of itself it has long tried to bury.
And it was all recorded by a 17-year-old Black girl, in the face of hostile, violent police officers, at great personal risk and trauma. It was an act of incredible bravery and service.
What are you working on right now?
My beat is a bit all over the place, which is how I like it. I’m working on a story about abortions in prison, climate change driving shark attacks on surfers, and the cruelties of Joe Biden’s border policies.
Career highlight so far?
In 2020, I wrote about the lost history of how in the 1930s, the Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes lived in my hometown of Carmel, California. A mob ran him out because his views on race and labour were too radical at the time.
I saw a video of a protester reading the article at a Juneteenth event in the centre of town the following year. That’s what it’s all about, giving people information that helps them challenge the status quo.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Take a deep breath. It’s always a good idea.
Journalism-wise, I had a teacher, Stephen Smith of APM Reports, who said, “Think in scenes.” They’re the building blocks of all the rest that happens in a good story.
Who or what inspires you most?
Activists, especially those who do climate and racial justice work. These are people who dedicate their lives to something, often at considerable personal toll, for the liberation of others. Their answer to hopelessness is action, even and especially when the odds are against them. It’s a beautiful thing. There’s a strain of thinking that journalism is activism—I don’t think it’s true. Journalists can be allies, but it’s not the same as what these people do, and it probably shouldn’t be.
Who would be your fantasy dinner party guests and why?
Every single US president. I would want to hurl pies in their faces for various and diverse reasons.
How do you switch off from work?
Surfing. I love how dynamic it is. When you’re in the water, it’s almost impossible for your mind to be anywhere else.
Gym or gin?
No need to choose between the two in my book.
If I wasn’t a journalist, I would be…
A Spanish teacher.