A reflection on SJNN’s Social Justice Journalism Scholarship at Medill School of Journalism

As a Social Justice Scholar for the Social Justice News Nexus at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism graduate program, I took different approaches to what one would consider social justice issues. For example, much of my work at Medill and outside of Medill surrounds feminism and women’s issues. Feminism is defined as the social, political and economic equality of women and men. Its definition is often misinterpreted as the idea that women should have more power than men or women who hate men, and that’s not what feminism is. Through journalism I cover intersectional (race, gender, sexuality, ability, class) feminist topics, such as abortion rights, coverage in the media and representation in science and technology.

Another social justice- related area I’ve been covering during my year at graduate school is ability and ways that technology is changing how people with different abilities interact with the world. During my time at Medill I was a health and technology intern for The Daily Beast. I’m including this internship experience as a social justice experience for my coverage of health and technology related to women’s issues and disability.

My first article for The Daily Beast was titled 3-D Printing Is Changing the Future of Prosthetics and discussed how open source technology and 3D printing is helping prosthetics become more affordable and accessible. I talked to Not Impossible and E-Nable. Not Impossible is a group that builds 3D printing labs in sub Saharan Africa and teaches the people of the region how to use them to build prosthetics. One of my favorite aspects of their project is that the group teaches the community how to interact with technology for good rather than completely imposing on the community. E-Nable is a really cool project based in the United States. The project aims to connect 3D printer owners with groups of people who think of prosthetic designs and then all gather to print, assemble the designs and then send them to people needing more affordable prosthetics.

I wrote additional articles for The Daily Beast from November to May about disability and technology, as well as feminism. I wrote about how an app named Be My Eyes may help people who cannot see connect with people with vision to do every day tasks, such as read labels. I also wrote about the pay gap for women and how it is still present using data about income and poverty levels between women and men.

In my first and second quarters, I focused on LGBT/Women’s issues and women’s health. My methods beat reporting covered sexual assault on campus and protests surrounding those issues, as well as events in the LGBT community. I also wrote about activism related to eating disorder awareness and social media discussion around National Eating Disorder Awareness week. Later, I wrote a story about women’s representation on Wikipedia and how groups work together to add women to Wikipedia. Through my reporting experiences at Medill, I learned about covering issues I was passionate about in a thorough way. I also learned in the process about feminism in the Chicago community and the prevalence of women’s issues within technology, my other main beat reporting topic. I learned how I could write social justice pieces through incorporating technology and feminism.

In my second quarter I was given the opportunity to visit UCLA’s IMLab in Los Angeles as part of a science practicum assignment. IMLab is working on a fantastic project in which they are integrating digital technology experiences and communities. Currently they are working on building an interactive media center at a park next to Dodger Stadium. They hope the park will bring together the surrounding Los Angeles community, as well as build methods for digital storytelling about the community’s history. The project aims to use technology to tell the stories of the old railroads, the Los Angeles River and the people in the surrounding communities, such as William Meade Homes (a housing project) and nearby Chinatown. We met with people in the communities and I shadowed the researchers and students’ work.

In my third quarter I took part in the investigative journalism capstone project with the Medill Justice Project. As a class, we investigated the potentially wrongful conviction of a man in Miami. We read and studied court case records, interviewed family members, friends, possible witnesses, legal teams and police authorities. We completed FOIA requests and wrote memos about every single phone call made or bit of research performed. We also looked into different areas of research. For example, I was part of a group of students who researched DNA and how DNA could play into a wrongful conviction. In May we travelled in groups to Miami where we recorded interviews, searched through court documents and wrote more memos. At the conclusion of the quarter, we produced a 5,000+ word multimedia report named “Code of Silence” about the investigation and research we found. The report was picked up by Miami papers and written about.

During the same quarter I also attended a dinner at the art museum on campus. At the dinner I listened to the experiences of wrongfully convicted exonerees and heard about what life is like after a wrongful conviction. I also learned about the art display, which was a collection of plates painted with the last meal of death row inmates. It was an enlightening but serious event.

I recently wrote an article named “Chicago Bubble Zones bursting with tension” about the difficulties women experience even attempting to enter an abortion clinic (very timely right now), and several of the women discussed in the piece were not even going to the clinic for an abortion. Around the same time, I wrote an article named “The IUD’s long path to redemption” for Vice’s channel Motherboard about the history of the IUD and how little say women have had with designing the device.

Currently, I’m in New York city where I am working as an Editor at LinkedIn. I hope to continue to learn and write about how technology is helping make life more accessible for people with disabilities, as well as how women are represented in media and technology, and how the lives of women can improve with technology. I hope through my journalistic pursuits I can tell narratives of social justice via disability, mental health and women’s issues, while incorporating topics about technology and futuristic science. I’m happy to have had the opportunity to explore a wide range of social impact topics with the help of the social justice news nexus.

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