Health Journalism At Richard Wright Public Charter School
The Urban Health Media Project partnered with Richard Wright to co-instruct a journalism course on health issues that helped students acquire skills such as interviewing, writing, creating visuals for stories, and gathering data. For their final project, students had to write and present their own news story.
To prepare students for the assignment, UHMP provided experts that the students could interview, such as doctors, health care professionals, therapists, and people with real stories to tell. Most of the people the students interviewed were from the community such as Sheandinita Dyson, the director of compliance and training from the McClendon Center in Washington, D.C.
The McClendon Center is a core service agency and day program that helps more than 4,500 D.C. residents who are homeless, or battling with addiction and other health issues that affect people in the community. Dyson helped students see how homelessnesss during the COVID-19 pandemic is even harder than normal because the people experiencing homelessness are susceptible to the virus due to unhealthy living spaces and environment.
Even though students were provided with people they could interview, some students took the initiative to go out into the community and find their own people to align with their story. Students created and presented a news story that they were most interested on such as smoking, food deserts, Sexual Transmitted Disease (STD) awareness, and more.
One of the students, Kamaia Bexley, took a strong interest in homelessness during the pandemic and used this topic to lead her news story. Kamaia created a story on homelessness during the pandemic because she sees a lot of homeless people in the metropolitan area who are not living in healthy situations. Kamaia found that homelessness is decreasing, but she could not determine if it is because they are finding housing or they are dying due to COVID. She explained that homeless people during this time need help because a lot of the services that were open pre-pandemic are now closed.
“Let’s take out the time to help these people because they are no different from us,” said Bexley. “They need the help. Let’s make access to health care more accessible.”
Students like Kamaia created news stories that not only they found interest in but they also stories that they related to or are experiencing now.
Asia Loring-Dali, a student in the journalism class, said, “I wanted to work on something that most interested me and what spoke to me.” Asia wrote and presented a news story on the advantages of getting the coronavirus vaccine because she recently received her first vaccination.
Because of this class, students have now learned how to create a story that brings awareness to health issues that are affecting the community by using different techniques that draw attention to their audience.
Skye Ali Johnson said, “ Because of this class I learned how to attract my audience with visuals and the importance of making a strong lead.”
Students in the class said they feel more confident than ever to write more news articles now that they have a better understanding of how to develop an eye-catching story as well as ways on how a news story can make an impact on their community.