August 19, 2008
Christine Graf writes:
Reporting on social justice issues makes the process of interviewing and writing a story even more important. Especially for college students who can use social justice issues to link their college, no matter how big or small, to the world. The value this holds is that we are the future generation of reporters and the world can not change unless the general public is aware of its struggles from Africa to the Middle East and back to the United States – there are many hardships that need addressing – here is how I did it.
The first step is educating yourself about the world and what exactly is happening in even the smallest of places. I did this by taking a course offered at my college entitled Working for Global Solidarity. In that class I listened to a speaker from Catholic Relief Services who had just visited Iraqis who have been displace in other countries due to the effects of war and violence.
Honestly, I never thought about how the innocent Iraqi civilians were affected by the war. Interested in learning more – a project my group was assigned was on refugees and peace-building. We decided we would investigate the refugee crisis in Iraq and highlight what war was doing to Iraqi people who in reality were not that much different then us and our families.
My professor told me about an Iraqi student at another college nearby who was speaking about her experience living in Baghdad during the war. I contacted her via e-mail and she was more than willing to speak with me one-on-one.
We met a few times and did a couple informal interviews of which I always recorded with my tape recorded because really the best quotes and stories come out when you are just having a casual conversation with someone person to person – stories and deadlines aside.
There was so much information I had gotten from the three interviews I did with this student that my biggest challenge was sorting through it all and choosing which experiences I wanted to share in my article. The Iraqi student had witnessed so much violence and felt so much fear in her 20 years of life. I wanted to do the story justice and really show people the effects this war had on students not difference than us.
Honestly – I wanted to use it all. My story could have been six pages but that was not an option so I thought very carefully about what I really wanted people to know most. I wanted readers to feel what it was like to live in Baghdad during this war and how it has ruined the lives of its civilians who have done nothing wrong.
Sorting through pages of notes and quotes – it was almost like a puzzle putting it all together. It is important to write your article in a story telling way – so that people can not only learn about these issues but almost feel the hardship of the people affected by the issue. A personal angle is always best if it is available.
If you are interested in doing some sort of social justice story – but have trouble finding an angle see if you can highlight a student or organization within your school that have done social justice work. Even a class that focuses on international development or social justice could give you some sort of starting point.
Overall, reporting on social justice issues is very rewarding. You are the voice of the people who have none. You are not only learning about things that might not ever cross your mind otherwise – but you are sharing the information with others to support change. Not everything is fair in life – but everyone deserves a chance at it and not everyone gets that chance. It is up to us as journalist to inform people that these issues are going on and that together we can make a difference.