Students

Catalyst student reporters, Spring 2018

Reporting Profiles: Kaylee Tornay and Brittany Norton, both senior journalism students at the SOJC, are participating in experiential learning through The Catalyst Journalism Project. The story they reported as part of Instructor Kathryn Thier’s solutions journalism course in spring 2017 has been published in Eugene Weekly as the cover story for the August 24 issue. The story reports on the Eugene Community Court, which seeks to support rather than sentence.

In the Q&A below, Tornay and Norton discuss their experiences with Catalyst and their process of reporting the story. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Kaylee Tornay and Brittany Norton

Why did you want to take a course titled “solutions journalism”?

KT: I was interested in the class because it was apparent to me that I would learn a new skill set in storytelling ― an increased breadth of pitches to spot and a new way to make an impact as a journalist. I wanted to know how I could tell stories about positive developments with the same critical eye I had been honing throughout my previous experiences.

BN: I know the power journalism has to change lives and make an impact, and I thought solutions journalism could be a way to achieve that. I was also aware of the tendency for journalism to focus on the negative, and the concept of solutions journalism seemed new and fresh.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about solutions journalism?

KT: Learning that solutions journalism has a method of rigor that can be implemented throughout every stage of the reporting process has been immensely valuable and those skills are ones that I hope to retain throughout my career.

BN: The most important thing I learned about solutions journalism is the four qualities: method, effectiveness, insight, and limitations. These four things are essential to any solutions journalism piece. They also help with the structure of your story. And I think they’re helpful to know even if you aren’t writing a solutions piece.

Why should your classmates take a course in solutions journalism?

KT: If journalism is really about telling stories that reflect the truth of a community, we should absolutely be able to ask, “what’s possible?” and report it as effectively as we’re able to report stories answering, “what’s the problem?” The course provides a great environment for originality, because for most students, this is absolutely the first time they have ever considered journalism’s role in this way. Instructor Kathryn Thier is a great teacher; she is supportive and extremely invested in her students’ educations, as she has proven by putting in the extra work this summer to help get our story to publication.

BN: Journalism students should take a course in solutions journalism for many reasons. First of all, it’s a very thorough reporting process and great practice for any journalism student. Second, I think j-students should have experience in all kinds of journalism. It never hurts to be a well-rounded journalist, and it can help you discover what kind of stories you want to tell when you enter the field. And Instructor Kathryn Thier is wonderful. She was helpful throughout the entire process of writing the story, even after the term ended.

How did the idea for the community courts story develop?

KT: It developed largely out of some work I had done with other students in Assistant Professor Brent Walth’s investigative class the previous term, using municipal court data to examine how frequently cops were citing homeless people. The community court was an underexplored antidote to that social problem, so it grew from there as we sought evidence of its effectiveness.

What were the most challenging aspects of reporting this story?

KT: We wrestled with how to discuss the court’s effectiveness ― the court is still fairly new and going off largely quantitative data was maybe not the most fair way to judge it at that point. We had to address its goals, however, and find a way to explain where the court was and help the community understand what that means.

BN: The most challenging aspect of reporting the story was figuring out how to measure the effectiveness. Every community court is different, so you can’t really compare them to each other. There are a lot of nuances with measuring the effectiveness of a program.

What do you hope a reader takes away from your story?

KT: Crime in the downtown area is one of those ongoing issues Eugene struggles with. When coupled with the related profusion of homelessness, I think both things can make many Eugenians feel pretty powerless or confused about what could change that state. I hope that the story helps readers understand that there are people positioned at the intersection of both problems who are having some success in mitigating them.

BN: I hope the reader learns something new and that the story sparks conversation and further encourages new solutions to long-standing problems.

What have you learned from participating in The Catalyst Journalism Project at the SOJC?

KT: The term prior to my solutions class, I took Assistant Professor Brent Walth’s investigative reporting course. It really helped tune me into the method of having a yardstick ― something you can refer back to in order to determine whether what’s been promised or mandated is being fulfilled or met. It also helped expose me to new investigative tactics, useful documents and interviewing strategies. It ended up being a great decision to take investigative reporting and solutions journalism back-to-back. Being able to present these skills and experiences to a potential employer has been very humbling and exciting. These are stories that will stretch any young reporter and make them bolder, as well as give them a renewed sense of the significance of the work they’re choosing to do. I’m immensely grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to work with students who challenged me and professors who invested so much time and effort into these projects. My advice to future students: don’t let the opportunity to participate in The Catalyst Journalism Project pass you by!

Kaylee Tornay has finished her journalism coursework and is completing her honors thesis. She will graduate in December 2017 from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication and the Clark Honors College. She is from Bend, Oregon.

Brittany Norton is a senior at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. She is from Eugene, Oregon.

Sam Felton and Natalia Riccardi also contributed to the community courts story. Both graduated from University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication in June 2017.

All four students reported this story as part of Instructor Kathryn Thier’s solutions journalism course in spring 2017.

 

Reporting Profile: Morgan Theophil, a senior journalism student at the SOJC, is participating in experiential learning through The Catalyst Journalism Project. Homeless youth on the RAN, which she reported as part of Instructor Kathryn Thier’s solutions journalism course, has been published in Eugene Weekly.

In the Q&A below, Theophil discusses her experiences with Catalyst and the process of reporting the story. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Morgan Theophil

Why did you want to take a course titled “solutions journalism”?

MT: I wanted to take a course titled “solutions journalism” because I was intrigued at the idea that solutions can be a part of the longstanding, authentic and objective goals of traditional journalism.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about solutions journalism?

MT: The most important thing I’ve learned about solutions journalism is that it is as complex, rigorous, challenging and important as any of form of journalism. It brings light to the solutions in a way that can lead to change in the world and it is as vital as reporting on problems.

Why should your classmates take a course in solutions journalism?

MT: I would recommend solutions journalism to everyone. I think all journalism students should take the course because it will undoubtedly be a challenging yet rewarding experience. The class opened my eyes to the way journalism can go beyond basic reporting on the world’s problems — this course is vital to all aspiring journalists. The class presents opportunities to look at and work on real stories that make a difference in society, challenges thinking in many ways and broadens perspectives on what it means to be an impactful journalist.

The solutions journalism course was full of meaningful assignments and valuable lectures that adequately prepared me to incorporate new and important skills into my work. The class was interactive, engaging, informative and fun. There could not have been a better person to teach the course — Kathryn Thier is a phenomenal instructor. Her passion for solutions journalism is evident. She works with students individually to reach in-depth understanding and success. She inspires every person in a room, and I am grateful to have learned from her.

How did the idea for your story develop?

MT: The story on 15th Night is about a new way of battling youth homelessness that is taking place in Eugene. Rather than creating another organization that provides a handful of important resources for those on the streets, a group of individuals used research that shows when an individual spends more than 14 nights on the street, they are far more likely to become chronically homeless. 15th Night works through a locally created technology: the Rapid Access Network. Trained individuals use this network to send “alerts” for a youth in need. The alert engages the many organizations in town to provide the youth with immediate help.

What were the most challenging aspects of reporting this story?

MT: The greatest challenge with this story stems from the fact it falls into the “big new idea” category of solutions journalism, meaning it is so new it does not have an extensive amount of data to mark it clearly as a “solution.” Last school year was the first year that the RAN was in use, so the data is relatively new. Further, the creators of the group were the originators of the idea, so I had to make sure to write rigorous in discussing all aspects.

What do you hope a reader takes away from your story?

MT: I hope readers read this story and take away the knowledge that there are people in the world who are looking at the problems around them in new ways, and challenging the different solutions for them that may or may not exist. I hope readers are encouraged by what 15th Night is doing to reach homeless youth before they get to the streets, and I hope they decide to get involved in the movement and help.

What have you learned from participating in The Catalyst Journalism Project at the SOJC?

MT: The Catalyst Journalism Project is leading new journalists to go into the world with a new and important perspective — I believe it truly is sparking action and response to Oregon’s most perplexing issues. Understanding the value of investigative and solutions reporting is powerful, and it is an honor to be working with the project.

Taking investigative reporting with Brent Walth was one of the most challenging and rewarding courses of my college career. His class taught me what it means to look at the world around you and question how something is happening, compared to how it should be. His class taught me the indescribable value of public records, questioning those in authority and making sure to look twice when something seems wrong. I learned that there is so much in the world that I do not know, and it was humbling to realize that through the lens of powerful journalism. Investigative reporting was a perfect precursor to solutions journalism, as the two are the perfect combination for figuring out the where the world’s problems lie and then finding the ways people are seeking to solve them. He was, similarly to Kathryn Thier, an absolutely phenomenal professor. I am humbled to have learned from him.

Morgan Theophil will graduate in June 2018 from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. She is from Eugene, Oregon.