OPINION: Graduate student takes on product development course

Creative Commons Photo By: Pixabay

Hello, my name is Katie Caldwell and I am a journalism student.

Now why may you ask is a journalism student taking a product development course? It’s simple. A diverse background in different fields of journalism looks great on a resume.

Going into this class, I had no expectations of what would be asked of me. Maybe I’ll create something that the Arizona Daily Star MIGHT like…but I never really thought of the impacts I could have on a whole community of people.

I don’t identify as LGBTQ+ but I have so many friends and family that do.

When asked by Professor McKisson and Becky to pick a community in Tucson that wasn’t being represented well by the Star — I knew just what I wanted to focus my attention on.

Tucson is considered, by most, an LGBTQ+ friendly city. If 4 percent of Tucsonans identify as LGBTQ+ that’s roughly 40,000 people who identify as LGBTQ+.

Now the hard part of this course. Identifying a solid problem Tucson’s LGBTQ+ community faces. This could go a number of ways — lack of positive coverage, lack of overall coverage, etc. The LGBTQ+ community is more than just a gay man’s perspective. There are so many different avenues to be explored — but taking the time to seek out all the sources can feel nearly impossible.

I relied on a close friend, Andrea Carmichael. She identifies as a transgender female who is open and honest about her transition. Carmichael is also super involved in Tucson’s LGBTQ+ community. I was able to go to one of her soccer games and speak to some of her teammates that represent the LGBTQ+ community in so many different ways.

This was a great learning experience for me and I was able to start to develop an understanding of some of the community’s major frustrations.

Common themes I learned from my empathy interviews:

  1. Not enough local LGBTQ+ coverage.
  2. Giving the LGBTQ+ community a voice.
  3. Educating the public on LGBT+ issues.
  4. Giving a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth to educate themselves.

5. Wanting a way to find job listings that are LGBTQ+ accepting.

6. Wanting a way to network within the LGBTQ+ community — local LGBTQ+ friendly/welcoming events.

With this information, I was able to generate my first problem statement:

The LGBTQ community in Tucson often do not see themselves in local news, especially when it comes to event and job listings relevant to them. This is a problem worth solving because there are roughly 40,000 people who identify as LGBTQ in the Tucson metro area and because this is a group that wants to network with each other. One of Tucson’s largest LGBTQ networks, Wingspan, fell apart in 2014, leaving an opportunity for a new media provider to serve this community.

After pitching and being teamed up with fellow graduate student, Jess Suriano, we were able dive in and speak to several others in the community.

Key Learnings Points from 20 additional empathy interviews:

  • Wants to be a part of/sourced for more local coverage.
  • They do not want to be “othered” in news with a separate section/tab for them.
  • They want to know what’s going on in their community that’s LGBTQ-friendly.
  • They want to know about local events going on that are LGBTQ-friendly.
  • A lot of them are parents or a part of families that want information for those topics.
  • They are really busy and don’t look at news for very long — digital products would be best.
  • They want to be represented more in everyday — mainstream stories (used as sources).
  • They want a space for LGBTQ youth to learn more about the community.
  • Whatever the solution is, it needs to be social media-compatible.
  • They want to see more LGBTQ reporters covering the community — possible byline (if comfortable/out).
  • Want to see more positive LGBTQ coverage — not just its struggles.
  • Some way to find LGBTQ-accepting jobs for their skill sets. This is particularly harder for transgender people.
  • They don’t want to have to define or declare themselves by their sexuality in every story.
  • They want news organizations and coverage to be more educated on LGBTQ community issues and the best practices for covering them.
  • Want personal pronouns to be incorporated and asked every time.
  • All identities and ages under the umbrella of LGBTQ need to be included.
  • LGBTQ relationships need to be normalized.
  • Bring attention to local grassroot organizations.
  • LGBTQ perspective about politics needs to be included.

With this information, Jess and I’s were able to create an updated problem statement:

The LGBTQ community in Tucson needs a way to feel represented in everyday news with some digital platform(s) to express concerns, give perspectives on issues and to find accepting places because, right now in news, the LGBTQ community is singled out and only sourced and covered on occasion — usually involving their hardships and nothing positive.

Now, for the fun and challenging part, creating a “solution.” We decided on making a Facebook page. Why? It’s easy and on a platform almost anyone can navigate!

We decided on the name “True Colors Tucson” because the LGBTQ+ community is more than just rainbows — it’s about expressing your true colors and embracing who you are.

Now for the opinions part, I think taking this course has made me a more understanding person.

I do recommend this class if you are someone who likes to step outside the boundaries of traditional journalism norms.

This is because you get to see a different side to journalism as well as challenge yourself in the best way possible.

For me, I had to step outside my comfort zone and speak to people in the LGBTQ+ community who weren’t always a fan of the media. Often, the avoided the news at all costs.

So, conducting empathy interviews and getting people to open up a bit more was a wonderful and educational experience for me. It also led me to meet people and create connections I might have never had to opportunity to make.

So, journalism students…I challenge you to take classes that requires YOU to step outside your comfort zone.

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