“Often the people you are most in sympathy with, you acquire the most distance from… when you’re called to write, even though you have your opinions, there has to be a basic fairness. Which does not mean objectivity or lack of opinion, but you have to have a loyalty to facts.”
During the 2018 SXSW Convergence Keynote, “Journalism in the Age of Trump,” Ta-Nehisi Coates joins The Atlantic’s editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg for a discussion on the current political and social landscape – from race relations and the political fabric of America to pop culture and comic books. Coates draws upon his career as the National Correspondent for The Atlantic and his life experiences when answering questions about the role of activism in journalism, his relationship with Obama, and the state of media under the Trump administration.
In addition to his work for The Atlantic, Coates is a best-selling author and current scribe of Black Panther comics. Coates’ reporting for The Atlantic has launched enduring national debates about racism, justice, and the character of American society.
In his Keynote conversation at the 2018 SXSW Conference, Coates passionately responds to most of Goldberg’s questions but thoughtfully declines from others. Coates makes it clear that, unlike many others, he does not believe in answering questions on topics he hasn’t given deep thought to.
“Ask me about something I haven’t read on or reported on, I’m not gonna say much about it. When you go into a punch your feet have got to be set.”
The Keynote audience was left with a resounding sense of optimism after Coates’ and Goldberg’s conversation. Recognized as one of the preeminent journalists of his generation and a vocal critic of American politics, Coates ended the Keynote conversation saying he’ll be exploring elements of optimism in his upcoming writing in Captain America comics for Marvel.
In describing his work and the connection between politics and comic book writing, Coates made the parallel that Obama is like Captain America. “I want to clarify that. I don’t mean that as praise or criticism. He’s somebody who believes in the ideal of America — really, really believes in it…I don’t fall anywhere near any of that but when you’re writing comic books you can’t live in your place, you can’t live in your world. It’s similar to journalism in that the task is to figure out how someone, or how you, can come to arrive at that point of view even if it’s so different than your very own.”
Watch the entire 2018 SXSW Convergence Keynote with Ta-Nehisi Coates followed by an audience Q&A and gain a new perspective on the evolution of media, journalism, and comic books.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates and The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg speak onstage at SXSW Convergence Keynote – Photo by Ismael Quintanilla/Getty Images