Reporter Erica Thompson determined to be changemaker, storyteller for marginalized communities
Erica Thompson serves as the Ohio regional business reporter covering race, gender and the economy for The Dispatch.
Why I became a journalist
From a young age, I excelled in writing and music. I decided to combine those two talents and initially aspired to become a music journalist. During graduate school at Ohio University, I interned at Billboard magazine in New York. Since then, I've been fortunate to interview many artists I admire and review some amazing shows, but I believe I've truly found my purpose in local community journalism — especially reporting on marginalized communities.
What I like best about my job
This job allows me to meet so many amazing people of all walks of life, who inspire me equally. I'm a storyteller at heart, and I'm grateful this position allows me to exercise that muscle. Finally, I feel blessed to have an opportunity to make real impact, whether that's uncovering untold history, prompting a change in legislation or changing someone's circumstances for the better.
A story I have worked on that has had a lasting impact on me
Years ago, I reported on the #BlackPride4 — a group of activists who blocked the Columbus Pride parade to protest the acquittal of the Minnesota police officer who killed Philando Castile, along with the violence against and erasure of black and brown queer and trans people. They graciously agreed to show up to our office to be interviewed and photographed. I had chills that day because I knew it was a really important story; there was not much local media coverage of racism within the LGBTQ community at the time.
This story also taught me an important lesson about martyrs. Today, following the death of George Floyd, caused by another Minnesota police officer, some people are now willing to listen to Black voices, but that was not the case just a short time ago. The #BlackPride4 endured quite a bit of harm (Stonewall Columbus, which hosts the Pride parade, even apologized to the activists years later). Activists understand very well that they are putting their bodies on the line for a change that they may not live to see. As a journalist, I had to realize I will bear witness to this process firsthand. It is not an easy realization, but it is my responsibility to document their sacrifice.
The Black Out series:9 stories on the effects of racism felt by Black Ohioans
What is the biggest challenge I face
It is incredibly difficult not to internalize your subjects' pain, anger or even distrust of media — especially when they look like you.
What I like to do when I'm not working
Everyone who knows me will say I am one of the biggest fans of the musician Prince. When I'm not working, I am writing about his spiritual journey, which is quite remarkable. I've interviewed dozens of people who knew him, and presented my research at academic conferences at the University of Minnesota, New York University and the University of Salford in England.
Favorite event or central Ohio tradition
I'm from Cincinnati, but I've come to view Columbus as home. I think it's almost a year-round tradition to make trips to all of our Metro Parks, especially during the pandemic. I'm truly in awe of these places.
Why journalism matters
Journalism is a discipline. We are trained to inform the public and take specific steps to ensure that information is accurate. More than that, we are changemakers; our reporting should make society a more equitable place for everyone.
You can support the work of Erica Thompson and other local journalists with a subscription to The Dispatch. For a limited time, first-time subscribers can get 6 months of digital access for $1.
From the editor:Journalism matters; thank you for supporting our work