Dan Holly is a writer and communications professional at heart. He’s seen the field from all sides: as a journalist for dailies like the Miami Herald and the Detroit Free Press, as a press secretary on Capitol Hill, and as VP for a Public Relations (PR) agency. He’s currently a college professor dean of the communications department at St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh NC. He is also a columnist for Diversity MBA Magazine. It was the skills he honed as a journalist that Holly believes are critical now for people to come together across lines of difference.
The Connection between Journalism and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
“When you’re a good journalist, you have to listen to all sides. You’re not just trying to SPIN the truth, you’re trying to GET the truth,” affirms Holly. And you must be open-minded. Holly saw that himself when he transitioned from writing for the news to writing press releases to pitch to the news. As a journalist he saw PR as an attempt to spin the truth. “Once I was on the other side I saw it in a whole different light,” says Holly. Writing for clients like the Diversity MBA Magazine highlighted how writing is “about sharing knowledge that could help people,” he said.
Holly reflects on the intersection of current social topics and race in his column in Diversity MBA Magazine. He began writing content for them when he was at the PR agency, and they were a client. They since invited him to contribute regularly. He has explored racial disparities and COVID and the mainstreaming of the social justice movement, among other topics, in his columns, always sharing keen observations and reflection through the lens of his personal experience.
The Power of Writing
One highlight for Holly on the power of writing was interviewing activists striving to make change in Hollywood around the lack of diversity at the Oscars. Halle Berry won best actress the following year. Even in a small way, Holly felt like he helped make that change happen. “Change is not natural,” says Holly. “Sometimes people have to be pushed outside of their comfort zone, and sometimes writing can help with that.”
Seeing a need for change is also what led to Holly’s most recent writing endeavor. His book, “Come On, People: A Plea for Moderation and a Plan for Christians to Lead the Way” came out this past March. Starting during the Obama administration and continuing into the Trump years, Holly noted that members of his racially diverse congregation were becoming more politically divided. And they were escalating their arguments on social media. Pre-COVID, Holly’s first step was to start by making friends with people whose views were different from his own. “Let’s at least do it in person if we’re going to fight” he reasoned. Ultimately, this led him to write the book, which looks at “how partisanship is dividing even Christians along racial lines.” It argues that biblical principles can be used to bring people together.
Faith at the Core of Inclusion
“Christianity teaches ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’” says Holly. The book aims to motivate and empower Christians to lead conversations about faith’s role in encouraging moderation and discouraging extremism. “Anyone who believes in biblical principles can help lead the way,” Holly argues.
For Holly it was his deep Christian faith that told him he couldn’t stay on the sidelines when he saw so much public animus, starting with members of his own church. “We are all in this together,” says Holly. “We need buy-in from all parties,” he adds, referencing the need for a paradigm shift in the telling of US history to include the experience of people who have been marginalized, and the experience of being American from a minority and majority perspective. “You have to be open to another way of thinking, to seeing another point of view.”
For Holly, that starts with writing. “I still write whenever I can and for whoever will publish it.” The second step is listening. “When you listen, that accomplishes so much, if you are truly listening.”
About the Author
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