IDH National Media Pitch
(It's now or never folks. Time to Tell Our Story.)
Hello News Media Person We Harassed on Social Media:
My name is Samson Hall, and I am the Senior Editor at the
Institute for Digital Humanity. And I have a story to pitch to you
that – if it didn’t happen to us – we almost wouldn’t believe.
This has been a brutal year for the United States, as the unregulated technology that tore our lives and country apart has finally hit a boiling point. No wonder over two-fifths of Americans think we are headed toward civil war, and the White House has finally started to take the dangers of algorithms and invasive technology seriously.
But to close out this rough 2022, we, at the Institute for Digital Humanity, are sitting on the feel good story of the year, and maybe even the feel good story of this young digital century. It is the story America desperately needs to hear right now. We haven’t pitched it to national media outlets yet (though we have been on the local news). And there is a risk that we are running out of time to tell it. (See below.) So here goes:
In 2018, our professor – Dr. Aaron McKain, a nationally and internationally recognized digital civil rights advocate and expert in technology ethics – did an insane but patriotic thing: He left liberal academia and took a job as a “diversity hire” at a conservative Evangelical college in downtown Minneapolis. (North Central University, which was also the host site of the George Floyd memorial.) His job: Bring the left and right – and all religions – together to fight for our digital rights.
So, in 2019, Dr. McKain, his Christian students, and his childhood friend he never agrees with politically (Prof. Thomas Freeman, former Assistant Attorney General for the State of Nebraska) started the Institute for Digital Humanity: Likely the country’s only (and certainly its most successful) student-run, non-partisan, and cross-cultural digital ethics think tank. By bringing together people who are supposed to hate each other – liberals, conservatives, Muslims, Christians, Jewish-Americans – they proved that all Amerians can work together to fight for a just, free, and equitable post-digital world.
Working with lawyers (the Iowa and Nebraska Bar Assocations), educators (Indiana University, Creighton University), advocates (the ADL, ACLU MN), and artists/filmmakers (Coded Bias), the IDH created award-winning kindergarten through law school educational curriculum (on privacy, algorithmic discrimination, disinformation, and hate speech vs. free speech), award-winning Constutional frameworks (that all political parties and religious faiths can live with), and, in their spare time, helped ban racist facial recognition technology in their city.
But our Black Mirror meets Dead Poets Society story has a twist: In 2021, Dr. McKain was nearly hit by a bullet in his living room in North Minneapolis: It missed his body, but hit the part of his brain where his lifetime of PTSD lives. Thanks to a Christmas miracle last year, donors from around the country kept the IDH alive. And last month, the IDH was launched as a true third-party non-profit to continue to grow its network of partners and level-up its proven blueprints to fix our technology and our democracy. But with the students’ coach now disabled, the IDH needs to fundraise this month to hire a full time staff to stay alive in 2023.
At a time when the country seems hopelessly divided, it is essential that we all see, despite our differences, that working together to fight for our civil rights, democratic institutions, and common humanity is still possible. We, the students of the IDH, are stepping up to save the country – and individual citizens – at a time when the “grown ups” have failed us. This is our story. And we are ready to tell it to the world.
So if you are interested, here are some logistics:
The IDH’s staff and students are racially, politically, and religiously diverse. And we are trained to comment on any aspect of the “digital ethics” news cycle, whether killer robots almost being deploted in San Francisco, Musk taking over Twitter, Tik Tok messing with our kids, or discriminatory algorithms (which are a threat to everyone) showing up at work, school, the doctor’s office, and even the justice system. Or, if you prefer, we can just tell the IDH’s story: Why the IDH became worried about technology, how we reached across the aisle to make a difference, and the challenges we overcame along the way.
IDH students and staff can also speak on our new initiative – “Privacy 4 All. Period.” – which will bring pro-choice and pro-life advocates together to fight for the one thing they agree on: That the surveillance of reproductive data, regardless of your stance on abortion, is abhorrent, unconstitutional, and scares us to death.
The IDH has a broadcast studio in our classroom. The IDH students can be in class and camera-ready during their finals periods this week: 12/15 from 3:30 - 5:15 pm CST and 12/16 from 10am - 12 pm CST. But IDH student leadership, lawyers, and advocates are free to speak anytime this month (at your convenience).
At this critical time for our country and our post-digital freedoms, we think the IDH’s story is the wake up call the United States needs to move into 2023 renewed, reunited, and prepared to take on the most critical challenge of the 21st century. If you are interested in covering our story – or getting exclusive rights to it – please contact us at mckain.3@gmail or firstname.lastname@example.org. (For further background, view our most recent fundraising video.)
Samson Hall, IDH Senior Editor
Dr. Aaron McKain, IDH Executive Director
Prof. Tom Freeman, IDH Research Director
Shea Sullivan, IDH Associate Director
Ayin Monge, IDH Education Director
Moises Morales, IDH Production Director