The University of Missouri School of Journalism and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute recently launched “Reporting Stories Hidden in Plain Sight,” a new web-based resource for journalists covering race and hunger (reportinghiddenstories.org).
The site, created as part of a semester-long capstone Journalism and Democracy class, includes definitions of key terms, story ideas, reporting tips, timelines, important data, examples of previous coverage of race and hunger and academic reports on the issues.
In 2014, the school’s capstone class tackled the issue of economic inequality with reporters as the target audience as well. The following year, Reynolds Journalism Institute collaborator Adam Glenn created an online resource for covering climate adaptation.
Tom Warhover, associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and executive editor for innovation at the Columbia Missourian, was one of two content editors for “Hidden in Plain Sight.”
Warhover said the previous two projects provided a glimpse of what was possible for this year’s endeavor.
“We knew, from the first instance, that our students could deliver on the research and reporting, and we learned from Glenn’s site how to better deliver the information,” Warhover said. “They shared the goal of providing tools for journalists on deep-rooted, pervasive problems that too often aren’t covered adequately over time. The two topics, race and hunger, also fit that definition.”
At the start of the class, students were split into a pair of teams, with each group focusing their efforts on one of the two topics. Warhover said the biggest challenge for the young journalists was working without a map.
“Even though they had examples, we didn’t provide students with a template they simply filled in,” he said. “They had to figure out the issues and what journalists might need, and how to communicate those things in the most efficient manner.”
Kevin Modelski, who graduated last May and currently works as a reporter with Louisville Business First, was placed in charge of putting together the data page on race for the website. The experience, he said, left him with a keen understanding of the role statistics can play in a story.
“Reporters sort of underestimate how valuable it is to include numbers and use them in a way that backs up the context of the stories we write,” Modelski said. “I never really considered the importance of it, especially with articles on topics that are difficult to talk about.”
Veronike Collazo, who graduated last May and now works as a reporter with the Loudoun Tribune in Sterling, Va., said the biggest takeaway for her was “realizing that covering race is a deeper issue than it may appear.”
“People’s identities don’t exist in a vacuum and you’ll only be covering issues very superficially if you try to only tackle race,” Collazo said. “Everything is connected.”