Elspeth (Elle) Reeve is the Vice News reporter who, a year ago, told the story of the Charlottesville white supremacy march from the inside of the movement. Her coverage of the white nationalist Chris Cantwell’s prepping and participating in the march that left a peaceful counter-protester dead won her many accolades, among them a Peabody and a Shorty Award.
A graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism at Columbia, Missouri, Elspeth went on to work for The New Republic, The Atlantic Wire and, since 2016, she joined the Vice News team, where she covers radical and fringe cultures with terrorism-prone behavior. She interviews them with an out-of-this-world calm as she holds them accountable for their hate-spewing views. “I grew up around some rough people,” she explained in a Nieman Reports story about her coverage of the alt-right. “If you act scared, they will give you a reason to be scared. I knew I could not let my face show any fear.”
what happened to white nationalists in the year after Charlottesville https://t.co/k53B8Ib6iv
— Elle Reeve (@elspethreeve) August 10, 2018
Hailed often for her courage to insert herself in dangerous situations so she can be close to the story, Elle thinks she’s just doing her job because it is important to uncover violent subcultures: they shouldn’t be ignored and let grow in the shadows, she says.
This is how she explains her take on the profession and the stories she covers: “I think it’s absolutely critical that we stay on top of a rising fascist movement in the country, not just because of the president who sometimes exceeds the expectations of these activists. Something to really think about is that these men argue that there’s something innately wrong with African Americans, that they are less than for some genetic reason. Obviously, that’s despicable, but there is a lot of much more mainstream commentary that makes the same argument in coded language, that says that there’s a culture of poverty, that there’s some kind of problem in the culture of black people and that’s why there are disparate outcomes. That’s why there’s a giant wealth gap between black people and white people.
That is on a continuum. Those beliefs are connected. I think when you have mainstream politicians saying makers versus takers, that kind of stuff, there’s pressure not to call that out for what it is. It is racism. It’s not that many steps away from this white supremacist movement.”
Five picks to know Elle Reeve better
Elle Reeve has an uncanny ability to speak to people on the fringe – and not the best fringe there is – while both letting them tell their truth and keeping them accountable for their shortcomings: racism, misogyny, racism. And racism.
Here are five moments that define her work:
- Charlottesville: Race and Terror (Vice News Tonight/HBO) follows an alt-right extremist and his gang as they prepare and march in downtown Charlottesville to affirm white supremacy.
- The Face of the Alt-Right (Vice News Tonight/HBO) challenges the poster-boy of white nationalism, Richard Spencer, who coined the term alt-right, to admit the real reach of his movement.
- This Is What the Life of an Incel Looks Like (Vice News Tonight/HBO) opens a door to one of the branches of white terrorism in the US and Canada: the incels, the self-described involuntary celibates, men who think women owe them sex and they are entitled to have it anyway.
- The Alt-right Is in Shambles One Year after Charlottesville shows the decline of the white supremacist/white nationalist movement in the US.
- An interview in the Nieman Reports on why Charlottesville matters and what it exposed: Elle Reeve: “Now that the whole world knows that these guys exist, you can’t just do the straight-on coverage of their events. You can’t ignore it either.”
Elle will join us at the Power of Storytelling 2018 to share how she does her amazing reporting and where she finds the courage to do it. Register here to join.