Twice a year Jennifer and Loren return to the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the downtown ASU campus. Their mission is to recruit future journalists to do a one-semester internship with the marketing department. These interns dive in and get their hands dirty. They help write press releases, design and execute marketing campaigns, shoot and edit video and contribute to LivAbility. About the only thing our interns don’t do is take our coffee order.
Some candidates are ill-prepared but obviously talented. Others have a short resume but spent considerable time learning what Ability360 is. The rarest of them all are the candidates that easily converse about disability related issues without stumbling over a word, sentence or description that doesn’t in some way mischaracterize disability or use a description no longer part of today’s (albeit somewhat sensitive) lexicon.
The good news is that within maybe a month, most of our interns get it. They not only pickup on the proper language that is acceptable to the disabled community, they come to understand why certain depictions are offensive and which angle is the proper frame for a story.
Some of them stay on as contributors and valuable members of the team after their internship ends. In this edition, we have former intern Keerthi Vedantam’s profile of one of our very first interns, Aitana Yvette Mallari. Yvette has contributed to every edition since her own internship. You’ve enjoyed her photos, videos and print stories. Prediction: Yvette is gonna go far someday soon.
Let’s just say that we rarely need to read more than a few paragraphs of any story reporting ‘about us’ to find the telltale signs of pity, inspiration porn, “Tiny Tim-esque” caricatures, wildly inaccurate information about the nature of our capabilities. We see seasoned journalists make these mistakes, and that’s why we train our interns to think critically about media characterization and be better. Soon we’ll be able to help you too.
We are really excited that hope is in sight. Together with National Center for Disability Journalism and the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, we will be getting some smarts in them writers. We are delighted to be conducting a series of workshops that will explore the representation of people with disability in the media.
The workshops are being designed to not only point what not to do, but more importantly provide positive and accurate examples of how to report on PWD with sensitivity, nuance and authenticity. Our goal is to give every reporter the understanding of disability culture and language that our interns gain over the course of their months with us, but in a one-day workshop.
So for our readers, know that each semester two or three new journalists survive their internship and go forth “woke” with the skills necessary to not only not offend us as PWD but to tell a story that speaks to people who are just being people – and happen to have a disability.
So, a big shout to all of our interns – past, present and future. We love you – especially when you get it write!