Class of 2015 Final Project Roundup

What a bunch of rockstars. Seriously.

The very first class of social journalism students ever at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism wowed us with their hard work and growth over the course of the year.

Adriele Parker presents her work at the end of the year

They developed a variety of insights that we believe will be useful to journalists interested in finding new ways to engage and serve audiences. This post rounds up some of the key lessons they learned, in the form of links to posts they wrote on Medium and videos of their final presentations.

We hope you find these insights valuable and welcome your feedback.

Luis Miguel Echegaray came to us aspiring to be the Anthony Bourdain of sports. We have little doubt that he is well on his way.

This fall, Luis Miguel built a website The Faces of Soccer that highlighted the stories of young players and the work of nonprofit organizations that help kids with few resources improve their game. He also interned for Vice and became the first sports live blogger writing in Spanish for The Guardian, helping to drive traffic to their site. He recently launched Joga, a morning newsletter for soccer fans. He wrote:

Social journalism is more than just the relationship a journalist has with the digital world and social media. It’s about using our work as servers of the community. If we think about it, engagement can mean more than just commenting or sharing a piece. It can be about collaboration, communication and most of all: trust. Journalism is essentially about people, and how we — as people — can create a sense of service through communication. The beautiful thing about what we do, is that it keeps evolving, it keeps changing, because people change, communities change, behavior, values and ideas changes. This is more than story-telling or information. This is about creating bridges.

Read his piece: Beyond the highlight: The social power of sports and what I’ve learned along the way. View his presentation:

Cristina Furlong offers some compelling insights from her work helping to make pedestrians in New York City safer. Among other efforts, she organized an event designed to improve news coverage of street safety and developed a map to highlight just how collision-prone one neighborhood in Queens is. She writes, “When community residents see themselves and their concerns amplified, that builds trust.”

Sean Devlin spent his year working with the Irish community. One of his key pieces of advice? “Be passionate. It sounds so simple, but when you care about what you’re doing in this field, it’s really not a job any more.” Sean is currently working for The Odyssey.

Emily Goldblum began the program with a focus on serving the queer community, but soon narrowed her focus to bisexual women. By listening to members of this community, she learned that they often face double discrimination from both straight and lesbian women. Among the things she developed was LGBTQLexicon, an interactive dictionary for queer terms, and a #biselfie campaign to engender pride. Emily landed a job at The Odyssey even before she graduated. She writes about what she learned in a post, “Focusing On The Next Step For Queer Women: Accepting Bisexuality.

Unfortunately I don’t have a video for Emily, but here she is giving her presentation!

Rachel Glickhouse’s reporting on immigration helped one grandfather get his deportation stayed, and her stories about the nearly imploding immigration court system sparked coverage of the issue in the national media. She interned for Medium in the fall, helping to lead their crowdsourced investigative Ghost Boat project, which is trying to determine the fate of 243 refugees who disappeared in the Mediterranean last year. She offered some excellent lessons on practicing social journalism and shares “Why I Quit My Job to Get a Master’s in Social Journalism” in her post.

Julia Haslanger may know more about the practice of social journalism of than any of us. In her work with the community of social media editors working in newsrooms (meta!), she learned a lot about the best practices in the field, and developed a great salary sharer that is bound to help many people negotiate for their worth. Julia interned at education news startup Chalkbeat and is currently working at the Wall Street Journal. Read more about what she did, as well as her three tips for the news industry.

Erica Soto brought her considerable skills and experience in shooting and editing video as an entertainment news producer to bear in helping her community of independent musicians find ways to support their work. Erica is building a business that creates connections between fans and indie artists on tour. Instead of crowdfunding for cash, fans will be able to purchase items that will supplement tour costs for artists. Read more about how her love for music brought her to a career in social journalism.

Adriele Parker writes compellingly about how being black and depressed led to her biggest accomplishment thus far. She writes:

“After numerous interactions with members of the community, I learned that, apart from seeking treatment, being able to share one’s story and being able to be exposed to the stories of others is most beneficial to improving the issues related to Black mental health.”

Adriele built a website to help people find the treatment and resources they need and to serve as a platform for sharing stories; she also developed a podcast “Our Stories in Light.”

Nuria Saldanha’s project centers around the favelas of her native Brazil, where she has partnered with Facebook to offer training sessions for citizens on how to use media to tell their own stories. She writes:

Talking to people who live in low-income areas in Brazil, you can quickly understand that they don’t want anyone else narrating their stories.

Read more about her work in her post: “The voice of favelas: Training and tools for storytellers.”

Deron Dalton spent his year working with the Black Lives Matter community of activists, with special attention to intersectionality, or the movement’s focus not only on Black men who are victims of police violence, but also on gender, sexual orientation, age and class.

Read more about how he “became woke producing the Black Lives Matter Impact Project” as well as a recap of an amazing panel he organized that brought together black activists and journalists to discuss how media could do a better job covering the movement.

Aaron Simon uncovered a number of issues of importance to North Brooklyn in his reporting, including widespread toxic contamination dating from the neighborhood’s industrial past. He helped members of his community document and organize around these issues even as new residents with little knowledge of the area’s history flood into these rapidly gentrifying parts of Brooklyn. For instance, he interviewed retired NYPD detective Tommy Stagg, 60, a lifetime resident who lives on an Exxon oil plume. Stagg recounts that at least 36 people on Diamond Street alone have been diagnosed with various forms of cancer. Read more about what he learned.

Pedro Burgos took what has become a somewhat unusual step: He decided not only to read MORE comments, but to work on improving them. He writes:

“Part of the problem in our democracy (both in Brazil and the U.S.) is how quick we are to dismiss the people that think different from us.”

We were more than a little impressed when Pedro taught himself enough coding to use IBM Watson’s API to analyze sentiment in Facebook comments as part of his overall drive to find out if we can improve online dialogue and discussion.

Pedro is currently interning for the Marshall Project and writing smart pieces like this one for the Coral Project on how to argue successfully online.