Kent State Students Tell Stories of Triumph Among Hardship for Cleveland Children
Kent State University students in the Advanced Television News Producing class have spent the semester learning the stories of middle school students at Cleveland’s Daniel E. Morgan School and within the Hough community. Now, as the semester concludes, they are telling those stories on a larger stage.
The class, taught by Thor Wasbotten, professor in Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is made up of juniors and seniors studying journalism and digital media production. The class spent several days in Daniel E. Morgan School and in the Hough neighborhood throughout the semester, talking to students, parents and administrators, sitting in on classes and church services, and learning about the daily struggles and triumphs the community experiences. They talked to city officials, including Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.
The stories they collected have been used to produce three impactful pieces:
- A half-hour news special.
- A documentary describing the process.
- A community conversation, in partnership with WKYC-TV and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
The community conversation unfolded May 1 at Daniel E. Morgan School and was moderated by WKYC anchor Russ Mitchell. The conversation was streamed to the station’s 380,000 followers on Facebook Live. Kent State students live produced the entire event.
For the students, the opportunity to work alongside professionals and take the lead in producing the conversation has been a defining moment in their education.
“Working with the Channel 3 producers has been wonderful,” says journalism major Anna Huntsman, ’19. “I was nervous meeting them … because they’re professionals and they’ve been doing this for years, and I didn’t want them to think that because we’re students, we didn’t have as many qualifications. But they were asking us questions, they were listening, nodding, when we met with them the first time. They seem extremely willing to work with us, and they seem like they respect us as journalists.”
It is also an opportunity for the students to explore journalism’s role as a public service. The Daniel E. Morgan community’s stories of hope and triumph are rarely told; instead, viewers hear more about the high crime rates and the socioeconomic disadvantages, the students say.
“This is really important for us as student journalists that we learn the skills now on how to cover difficult situations,” Ms. Huntsman says. “I think it’s the media’s responsibility to not just provide viewers with another crime statistic. It’s their responsibility to show viewers what’s going on behind the crime statistic and also to inspire solutions.”
Kent State’s relationship with Daniel E. Morgan School is part of a larger initiative called “My Voice. Our Stories.” A group of the middle school students will participate in a weeklong workshop at Kent State this June, and Mr. Wasbotten and fellow journalism Professor Gene Shelton, have been regularly speaking to Daniel E. Morgan classes for the past two years.
“When I met (Daniel E. Morgan students), I saw this community of students who had so much hope, so many dreams, so many ideas about what they wanted to be when they grow up, but then I also saw a group that might fall under some stereotypes that people from the outside might put upon a community,” Mr. Wasbotten says. “People might say it’s a disadvantaged socioeconomic community, with a lot of hardships, crime rates … (But) you can’t define a community just based on the external perceptions one may have.”
The class is also running the “My Voice. Our Stories.” Facebook page where viewers can watch additional content.