Photo by Steve Andel
by Andrew Norman
As a young journalist angry about a lot of things I saw in my country, I felt a responsibility to help tell undertold stories, to try and give the voiceless a voice and to counter what I viewed as a media and electoral system financially beholden to those in power. I covered contentious issues like gun control, climate change, equal rights and electoral politics (as well as music) first for the now-defunct Omaha City Weekly, The Reader
, Congressional Quarterly (now Roll Call
) and Great Lakes Echo
(at Michigan State, while earning my master's with a specialty in environmental journalism).
As a 30-year-old married man preparing for my next step after grad school, I found myself tired of being angry, and sick of jumping into political or social arguments with people whose minds I had no real hope of changing. I was excited to take a break from telling often polarizing stories about frequently heavy topics. And I loved the idea of writing as an advocate for something that's inherently positive — local music and arts culture. So I started working on Hear Nebraska as my master's project, and my wife, Angie, and I moved to Lincoln to start running it as a nonprofit in June 2010.
It has been incredibly rewarding serving as a sort of cheerleader for a growing community. As an investigative journalist, it's important to avoid getting close to your sources. But as an advocate covering a scene so relatively small as ours, it's impossible to not get close to the musicians, venue operators, promoters and other folks we cover.
These are the people I admire and am attracted to. They're passionate, and they're talented. They're doing their part to make Nebraska a cultural destination, which I want to happen because I believe its artists, small businesses and other community organizations deserve it, and because it will open new opportunities for this state's citizens. Generally, I think Nebraska is so special because we work hard, we're willing to openly collaborate (often even with our competitors) and we're humble.
We at Hear Nebraska aim to do our part by producing written, video, photo and audio content that highlights (as comprehensively as possible) the best of what our arts community produces. We write about music we like, and we encourage the community to help us do it (because we know our contributors' tastes are far from representative of the whole). That's one reason why you won't find many critical reviews on hearnebraska.org. There are other outlets for that. And with as many positive things as are happening here, we simply don't have time to write negatively. That's not our mission. Let others destroy — we'll build. And if you're not on board with that, thanks for reading, but you should probably stop now.
Hear Nebraska has been a real healing outlet for me, and although it took some time, I've become comfortable with my role as advocate superceding my role as journalist. But it's hard not to be angry about negative events from the last few days — events which have nothing to do with art.
First, there was the horrific, senseless shooting in Aurora, Colo., that has left 12 people dead and 58 more injured. Then, early Sunday morning night during the final hours of a party thanking Hear Nebraska contributors for their dedication and contributions, two people were shot outside a bar fewer than 100 yards away from the party, and sent to the emergency room with serious injuries. Elsewhere in Omaha that night, a 38-year-old woman became the city's 19th homicide of the year.
A couple hours later in Lincoln, a woman reported three masked attackers barging into her home, binding her with zip ties and cutting anti-gay slurs into her skin. They then dumped gasoline on her floor and lit it with a match. The woman crawled to a neighbor's house, bleeding and surely terrified for her life, but is going to survive. Police have made no arrests, and are treating the incident as a hate crime.
All of these events are heartbreaking and tragic. And none of them needed to happen. Their senselessness is scary. And the news stories about them are terrible for the communities and neighborhoods involved.
However, I believe great good can come from great bad. And that happened Sunday night as more than 500 people attended a quickly planned vigil
outside the Lincoln's Capitol in a show of solidarity for the hate crime's victim. These people —including many members of Lincoln's arts community — rallied to send a message that their community welcomes every human, regardless of sexual orientation, skin color or any other element that gives a person his or her identity.
Kudos to Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler, too, for his very progressive, thoughtful statement: "Lincoln strives to be a community that embraces tolerance and equality. We stand united with our gay and lesbian citizens in denouncing violence directed at any group."
And we'll support every effort to turn anger into positive action.
Below are a list of events and other ways you can help. And if you're so inspired, please call our hotline, 231-HollaHN (465-5246) and leave your own positive message about any of these recent violent events. We'd love to share them for others to hear.
Fundraisers for Lincoln's hate crime victim:
Andrew Norman is Hear Nebraska's director/editor-in-chief. If you know of more events that could be added here, please include them in the comments below. Contact him at email@example.com.