By Molly Hulsey
A partnership of students from all journalism specialties worked all year on an in-depth, online report of mental health issues in Missouri. They discussed their journey during RJInnovation Week, from choosing a topic to cover to their reporting experiences and the lessons they learned.
Goal of the program: to produce innovative journalism that expands awareness and broadens perspective about a localized issue.
How to select a topic?
- Students held community roundtables to explore engagement. They had guests from health professions write the most pressing health issues in their sectors on sticky notes, and then prioritize them on a whiteboard.
- This method created an opportunity for people with common threads of interest to get together, and their conversations created content for the students.
- The team finally decided to focus on people in Missouri dealing with mental health issues, which respondents said in general was overlooked.
How to get stories to the right people?
- The students wanted to make sure audiences would be interested in what they had to say. They talked to several journalists that report on mental health issues.
- Since health topics involve a lot of privacy regulations, the group had to work even harder to find people they could talk to that would create compelling stories that would catch the attention of readers. They relied on the help of mental health professionals to find sources that were willing to talk to them.
- Through their work, they created a website that detailed both the journey they took to create content and their works to reveal the everyday lives of people living with mental illness.
- The group found three things to be the most crucial to creating successful online content that compelled readers.
- Community engagement
- Project management