bianca Fortis: A profile
Bianca Fortis is a journalist, a founding member of Transborder Media and a graduate of the University of Central Florida. In the 6 years since graduating, she’s achieved a fair degree of journalistic success, having reported on-location from both the White House and an active volcano. In spite of that, it’s her passion for issues affecting those often left ignored in news media—such as undocumented immigrants and the homeless—that makes Fortis stand out as a storyteller.
Subjects like those are the focus of the documentary, Soldiers Without A Nation, which Bianca has been working on along with her Transborder co-founders; Elaine Cromie and Griselda San Martin. The documentary tackles the issue of US military veterans whom, in the wake of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, are subject to deportation if they aren’t citizens of the US and commit a crime. Fortis was asked about the crime aspect of this issue and while she admits some of the veterans who are deported may be problematic figures, the issue isn’t as black-or-white as one might think. “I think when you are talking about crime and why people do crime, I think it’s really important to look at the context of the situation and understand what’s going on,” she said. Veterans suffer from higher rates of PTSD than the general populace and it’s estimated that around 10% of death row inmates have military backgrounds.
Being able to find a way to make people care about certain issues—such as immigrant deportation—that they might otherwise feel disconnected from is an important part of journalism and a key aspect of Fortis’ success; something she had to learn through years of hard work. “The stories about sex, drugs and crime; those are the top stories people want to read about,” she said of the relatively low commercial value placed on her reporting of niche issues, but added she thinks “if you believe in something enough, it doesn’t matter; you’re going to do it anyway.”
This passion and headstrong attitude is present in much of her work. The funding of the documentary comes mainly out of pocket and through online donations from Transborder Media’s readers via Kickstarter, GoFundMe and similar websites. Fortis also believes that the Internet can help you find audiences and keep them coming back and engaged. “There’s a lot of social justice campaigning that happens on the Internet, specifically Facebook,” she told us about online networking.
Like many young journalists, the stories about the digital shift in society seems to be the next frontier for Fortis’ writing. “I write about technology and media all the time and the way that things have changed,” she told us before wrapping up her presentation. “I write so many stories about virtual reality, which I did not think people even really cared about, but it’s really big right now”. With social media opening up frontiers for audience accessibility, one can’t help but wonder how Fortis’ specific eye for social justice issues and underdog stories will unite with the new increasingly digital world of journalism.
2016 presidential election: post-election coverage
It’s been three weeks since the 2016 U.S. Presidential election and, though the victory of Donald J. Trump left many reeling, there’s a sense of normalcy returning to some Augusta University students. In spite of this, coming off of the heels of this highly contentious election season, a new cycle of news stories is emerging. But with claims from the President-elect of alleged voter fraud, a push for ballot recounts in three states from Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, and online activism campaigns such as #NotMyPresident on Twitter, the extremity of differing political opinions seems to be the new normal.
Within days of the the election results being announce, protests began popping up around the country from people dissatisfied with the way things turned out. “Obviously the people that were protesting in the streets were very angry, and I don’t blame them,” said anthropology major and Hillary Clinton supporter, Bianca Ellis. “A lot of people were telling them to get over it and not do what they were doing. I actually fully supported it,” she continued. The protests seem largely motivated by some people’s view that the new President-elect is a racist. Trump made headlines in 2015 with his claim that he would build a wall between the United States and Mexico to cut down on illegal immigration. “That hits home for me,” Ellis said, adding, “My grandfather is technically not here as a citizen; he’s here on a working visa that he constantly has to renew.” Various concerns of this type have been raised about the way Trump’s Presidency may affect issues of social justice in the coming years.
"He's not just going to kick out all the Mexicans," said Greg East, a freshman mathematics major. "He's going to fix a lot of the problems we've been having here," he continued. This may relate to a belief for many in the Trump camp that the President-elect has a stronger approach to handling the threat of ISIS than Clinton, but for Anna Dresser, also a Trump voter, his presumptive approaches—proposals of a Muslim registry and ban—don't entirely sit well. “We’re not doing a job at being an open country for people seeking refuge and we’re closing people off,” she says, “the next time we’re in trouble, no one will want to help us.” When asked what reasons she had for voting Trump, she confessed to having been swayed in the final days before the election. “I was going to vote Hillary, but I guess my family really influenced that decision” she said, “when you have so many friends and family who are voting for Trump, sometimes you just hear more negative stuff about Hillary.”
Michelle Haynes, a psychology student at the university also didn't feel particularly passionate about either major candidate. When asked about the issues she cares about being tackled in this election, she said, “A lot of the issues I thought were important didn’t get addressed.” Not an unusual sentiment coming out of an election where the candidates’ scandals were more center-stage than their stances on the actual concerns of the American people. “I wouldn’t say [there was] one particular issue,” Haynes added, “just the fact that everything I heard from Trump scared me; made me just want to vote against him, honestly.” This reflects a large rift between certain groups of Americans. After the election, though many Republican voters are happy to see a Trump victory, there are those that have begun feeling unsafe in their communities. Some have believe certain acts of violence and vandalism in the wake of the election can be attributed to Trump’s rhetoric. “I’m not liking how some bigoted people are becoming more emboldened,” Haynes said, referencing an incident on campus involving posters and stickers placed around campus promoting fascist & white supremacist websites. Dresser also agrees there’s been a change in mood. “I’ve definitely seen more violent attacks though, especially against minorities,” she says, “It’s just, that’s all I really see on the news now.”
In the last month there has been ongoing discussions about normalizing the antagonism and vitriol from this election and rejecting it to move forward. For some, that normalcy may just be a result of fatigue. After the election, Ellis says she felt worn out. She said, “I don’t feel like fighting with these people anymore.” There’s no telling where the fighting and fatigue will lead the student body in the coming months, but it seems all are in agreement that the community wants to feel safe.
INTERVIEW WITH AMISHA JOHNSON
HUmans of Summerville: Caroline Grant
“After college I see myself acting. Like, I know it’s going to be hard, but I’m not the kind of person to give up easily. And I’ve been working on it for years. If I weren’t an actress, maybe I’d be a comic book writer. Like, there are all these comic books out there that sound like they’re written with the same voice and I want to break into the conversation they’re having, screaming so they know I’m there. That sounds crazy. Whatever I do, I just want to be distinct.”