StoryBridge is a collaborative reporting initiative that brings together student reporters from different sides of the nation’s racial and geographic divides. Two journalism programs – one a historically black urban institution and the other, a predominately white, rural land-grant university, joined in a collaborative reporting partnership to bridge place, race and culture. The first effort, Bridging Selma, reported on the status of Dr. King’s dream of economic and social equality 50 years after Bloody Sunday, when state troopers brutally assaulted peaceful civil rights marchers in Selma, Alabama, galvanizing Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
For this project student journalists from Morgan State University and West Virginia University joined forces again, along with innovators in social media reporting, to immerse themselves in the world of food systems and food justice. Josh Lohnes, the course’s expert-in-residence from the WVU Food Justice Lab, helped students and faculty untangle the complex system that looks at food affordability and access. John Ketchum, formerly of CNN, and independent journalist Tricia Fulks Kelley served as innovators in residence. While Kelley guided students’ stories that challenge the dominant narrative of food access, Ketchum advised students on verticals, platforms and other tools to distribute their content through social media, such explaining complex topics such as the food system through the shorthand of explainer videos.
Students connected with activists, farmers, experts and government officials in local communities to paint a picture of Baltimore and West Virginia’s food systems. Themes emerged from students’ reporting, including how the government can subsidize affordability, how infrastructure and location affects access and what local community leaders are doing to combat food injustice in their own back yards. Students’ research and reporting informed the content and design of the Broken Plate online app, which allows users to input data to view a snapshot of what food affordability and access looks like in their states, as well as aggregating data for journalists and researchers.
Students and community members from Baltimore and West Virginia screened their work at a community event Using Audience Engagement to Report on Social Justice Issues.
The project is led by Jackie Jones, Assistant Dean for Programs and Department of Multimedia Journalism Chair of MSU School of Global Journalism & Communication, along with Joel Beeson, Associate Professor of the WVU Reed College of Media and is produced with teams of students and faculty from both programs. StoryBridge is supported in part with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Democracy Fund and the Scripps Howard Foundation