Diversity-related Projects in Journalism

Diversity-related Projects in Journalism

Outreach initiatives sponsored by the School of Communication and Journalism are a positive effort in the area of recruiting minorities and reaching out to underserved populations.  Those initiatives include the AU Summer Journalism Workshop, the AU High School Advisers Workshop and the PACERS Workshops hosted in the fall and spring semesters.

Journalism Advisers Workshop

Through a three-day advisers workshop, elementary, middle and high school teachers in Alabama earn continuing education credit by participating in sessions focusing on newswriting, reporting, interviewing, editing, multicultural reporting, newspaper management and media law. The Alabama Press Association Foundation and PACERS financially support the workshop.

AU Summer Journalism Workshop

Students from across the country attend the AU High School Journalism Workshop to learn journalism basics during the five-day event. High school students gain hands-on experience in journalism and other communication fields during the annual summer workshop, which is now in its ninth year. For one week, participants will become print reporters and multimedia producers, who are ready for any assignment that might arise in a high school environment. Not only will they learn how to report and edit the news, they will understand and appreciate the passion journalists have for their work. During the week, students compete for $1,000 AU journalism scholarships. The College of Liberal Arts, the Alabama Press Association Foundation and the Mobile Press-Register financially support the student workshop.

Chattahoochee Heritage Project

The Chattahoochee Heritage Project is a web based news and information service focusing on the Chattahoochee River Valley, with special emphasis on Chambers, Lee, Russell and Barbour Counties in Alabama and Troup, Harris, Muscogee and Chattahoochee Counties in Georgia.

The river is much longer than that small portion, of course. The Chattahoochee begins in North Georgia, near Helen, flowing for 430 miles until it joins with the Flint River near the Florida state line. The waters continue as the Apalachicola River for 112 miles, emptying into the Gulf of Mexico at Apalachicola, FL. Our stories will focus there too.

Students in the Auburn University Department of Communication of Journalism (with the assistance of faculty and friends of the Department) will produce multi-platform content that focuses on significant areas of cultural and historical interest to the Chattahoochee Valley area. The stories will highlight people and places. Therefore, the project will provide an opportunity to record the oral and visual history of a rapidly changing area.

The Chattahoochee Valley is in geographic proximity to Auburn University and is served by research, instruction and extension efforts of the University. The area has faced serious economic challenges in the last several years, yet is rich in human and cultural resources. Historically, the Chattahoochee Valley was a central place of contact among Native Americans, European Americans, and Africans. The cultural exchange of these groups was profound, and its legacy is still found in the people and traditions of the region. Additionally, it is an environmentally significant area, both in its environmental diversity and in the relationship of the river region to the development of industry and business. The region has been profoundly affected by national and international economic developments, including the shift from agrarian to industrial economic bases and, more recently, the closing of textile mills.

The Front Porch Community Journalism Project

Auburn University Community Journalism (JRNL 4970) students were pushed out of the classroom and onto the “blue highways” of Alabama on a journey of discovery in spring 2011.  The journalism majors faced the challenge of long-distance travel with the mission of capturing a snapshot of nine distinctly different communities scattered across the state.

Along the way they discovered hometown heroes fighting to better their towns, friendly mayors, tough issues and hugs from welcoming community members.  They also discovered something about themselves as journalists: the value of taking time to sit on a front porch and have real conversations; the challenge of finding just the right sources; the beauty of spending an afternoon with folks like Selma folk artist Charlie Lucas. They also found ghost stories, fried chicken, and more than a few friendly faces in towns from Bayou La Batre to Collinsville.

Of course, none of the above would be possible in the confines of a classroom. The community itself proved to be the best grounds for educating these aspiring journalists. The questions we explored are ones that journalists practicing their craft in communities across Alabama and beyond confront every day: What does our community value? What does it take to make a community work? How are hometown heroes dealing with tough issues that challenge the community?

Stories from ten communities in the Living Democracy project are featured in Front Porch: Discovering Connections in Diverse Alabama Communities, an on-line publication http://issuu.com/fairlln/docs/frontporchmagazine

Each student in the class contributed up to four articles on each community: Bayou La Batre, Cahawba, Selma, Collinsville, Elba, Hopson City, Linden, Marion, Oak Grove and Valley.

The magazine was a positive outcome for the class. But there were many more.  As the professor who will be teaching the Spring 2012 Living Democracy (LD) students in a course called Communication and Community Building, I was eager to see what lessons about community, civic engagement, and democracy in action would be gleaned from this course.

The project reinforced by personal belief that learning is a journey of discovery. Without the journey, there’s not as much authentic discovery.  In other words, lectures within the confines of a classroom on topics ranging from the meaning of community to stereotypes can only go so far. My community journalism students, who offered compliant nods of understanding during my own lectures on these topics, would later admit having their own direct experience with such issues in places scattered across Alabama was much more meaningful.

Nan Fairley, associate professor in the Department of Communication and Journalism and College of Liberal Arts Engaged Scholar, taught the course. AU journalism students who wrote, edited and designed the publication in Spring 2011 are Colton Campbell, David Crayton, Ariana Diaz, Mary Rose Gillman, Darcie Dyer, Sarah Hansen, Sloane Hudson, Kelly Nicastro, Kristen Oliver and Rachel Shirey. Alison McFerrin also contributed. The participating communities are part of CLA's Community and Civic Engagement Initiative project called Living Democracy. 

 

Last Updated: August 08, 2019