Laura Douglas-Brown 95C 95G serves as editor-in-chief of Emory Report, writing and editing news focused on the university’s internal audience of faculty, staff and students for the Emory News Center, Emory Report eBulletin and special Emory Report print editions.
Before returning to her alma mater, Laura worked for 17 years as a journalist in the LGBT press, first as a reporter and editor of Southern Voice, then as founding editor and co-owner of Georgia Voice. She also served as a communications consultant for the Center for Civil & Human Rights.
Laura’s professional honors include being named 2012 Emory University “Change Agent”: One of 20 honored for impacting LGBT campus climate over last 20 years, 2012 Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Atlanta Leadership Award 2011 and 2010 National Newspaper Association, second place, Best Newspaper Website (won by GA Voice), 2010 Atlanta Press Club Awards of Excellence: Opinion Writing finalist, 2008 National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association Sarah Pettit Memorial Award for Excellence in the LGBT Press, 2008 Emory University Chesnut Award.
Today, we asked Laura a few questions.
You’ve long been a supporter of freedom of expression. Why is this important to you?
Both my education and my career have centered on the power of words to inform, educate and inspire. Freedom of expression is a founding tenet of our country and has been the force propelling every protest movement that has moved us closer to actually fulfilling the ideal of “liberty and justice for all.”
Why do you think it’s important to let sometimes dissonant voices be heard?
I think it is important to think about which voices are considered dissonant, and who gets to “let” them be heard. Most of us speak from simultaneous positions of privilege in some areas and oppression, or at least minority status, in others. Generally, power isn’t given; it’s claimed. Speak out.
Can you recall a turning point in your life that shifted your perspective?
During my first year as a student at Emory, back in 1992, I joined in protests directed at the university’s handling of an incident in which two of my friends, a gay couple, were harassed. I attended Emory on scholarship and was afraid the university would retaliate against us; instead, they served us sodas (Coca-Cola, of course) during our sit-in and took our concerns seriously. It affirmed my belief that anyone and everyone — including large, religiously affiliated universities in the South — can change.
What achievement are you most proud of?
It hardly qualifies as an achievement of mine (and certainly not mine alone) but I am most proud of my daughters, and the confident, creative, thoughtful, strong young women they are growing up to be. I remember my own adolescent fears, especially around coming out, and I am grateful that thanks to the hard work of the many local and national activists I had the privilege to cover in Southern Voice and Georgia Voice (as well as untold others) they will live in a world that is much more free. I am also proud of how they are learning to recognize the injustices many still face, and to use their own voices.
With increased focus on civility, which qualities are most important for each of us to embrace?
As important as it is to speak out, it is equally important to listen. People of good intent can disagree without demonizing each other, and I am deeply concerned by the shrill tone of so much of our current national dialogue. This is where universities can play a crucial role in modeling both respectful disagreement and the capacity to listen, grow and change.
How do you encourage people to undertake difficult dialogues?
You join them. You meet them where they are, you listen, you share and you trust that their intentions are as good as your own. You give people room to take risks, to be awkward, to make mistakes — and you give yourself that grace, too.
What makes you happy?
My family. A good book. Music. People coming together for a common cause.
Thanks so much, Laura!