Learning What We Can Say to Serve

Screenshot of the Classification tab for “Boston Phoenix, 1974!” on Zooniverse

This past semester, I, Wade Taliancich, served using the online resource called Zooniverse. Working through the different ways to serve, I found my place in a section titled “Boston Phoenix, 1974!” The reason that I chose this particular area to work in is because of my passion for journalism. The project of “Boston Phoenix, 1974!” is to transcribe news story cards from reporters in the Boston area starting in 1974.

Although this may seem strange as an act of service, I found comfort in being a steward for correctness in the journalism field. Stewardship in this form comes from picking up word usage that reporters considered appropriate at the time, and when noticing potentially harmful or triggering words, I can make note of what ways we’ve changed our outlook on marginalized groups of people. Offensive phrases seemed shockingly commonplace at this time; however, the whole point of the transcription was to learn about culture in the past to improve upon what we will do in the future.

Over ten weeks of this service until the second week of December, I had learned how far we have come and how far we still have to go for groups of people who are stigmatized or stereotyped. I had to reflect on my own past actions of ignorance or irrationality to understand that our world is constantly changing. Having an attitude solely based on empathy for others is not enough. I have to listen. I have to take in the words that can be hurtful and react accordingly. I learned that I can not just switch places with other people all the time. My responsibility is to get as close to understanding as I can. Then, I can help those marginalized groups by spreading the positivity that our world needs in a time like this.

We’re all human, and we all deserve to be loved and to give love. If you want to help understand the past cultures of the world to help groups of people today, you can make an account on Zooniverse. Click on the arts section and select “Boston Phoenix, 1974!” The site will walk you through how to help record the past mistakes for a brighter, open-minded future.

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