High school journalists assisting on statewide investigation of concussions

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If there’s one thing adults just don’t understand, it’s probably the world and culture of high school.

So when we started talking about a series on head injuries in youth sports, we thought: “Why not ask student journalists to help?”

Last fall, project manager Lee van der Voo and I visited Portland-area classrooms to tell students about Rattled: Oregon’s Concussion Discussion, ask for their input, and see if they wanted to contribute.

Sure enough, they did. And for many of them, the interest is personal.

After my presentation to one West Linn High School class, a student journalist asked how many of his classmates had suffered a concussion. The hands of about a third of the room went up.

Glenn Krake, the high school’s journalism teacher, said two students took up the mantle of concussion-related stories. One is focusing on preventive measures and best practices. The other is looking at existing procedures and protocols in place at the suburban high school.

“They haven’t published anything yet, but the seeds have certainly been sown, and they’re having conversations to be sure,” Krake said.

In October, van der Voo, managing director of Investigate West, presented at Fall Press Day, a combined effort of the University of Oregon and the Northwest Scholastic Press to provide students with a day of journalism workshops, contests and panels. Van der Voo introduced the Rattled project and talked about sports concussions.

She also joined me at a NextGen Media workshop for editors of high school newspapers at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism in downtown Portland. Called the Editor Leadership Summit, the class asked plenty of questions about public records and also received an overview of Rattled.

Anthony Whitten, who leads the summits, says the next group will start their coaching sessions June 16. We are hoping to invite them to join our concussion project, too.

Another part of Pamplin Media Group’s youth outreach efforts is a “social video” that uses a series of slides to explain the project and invites students and other members of the public to participate. Watch and share it on Facebook.

We are still looking for high school students interested in sharing their stories or digging up the truth about concussion risk in their schools or on their teams. What about Rattled makes you curious?

Email shasta@portlandtribune.com if you want to get involved.


Shasta Kearns Moore is the education reporter for the Portland Tribune and leads technological newsroom innovations for Pamplin Media Group. 

Rattled: Oregon’s Concussion Discussion is a joint project of InvestigateWest, Pamplin Media Group and the Agora Journalism Center, made possible in part by grants from Meyer Memorial Trust and the Center for Cooperative Media. Researcher Mark G. Harmon from the Portland State University Criminology & Criminal Justice Department provided statistical review and analysis. The New York-based Solutions Journalism Network provided training in solutions-based techniques and support to participating journalists.

Components of this project, which will include video and audio files, charts and graphs, will be hosted online by both InvestigateWest (RattledInOregon.org) and the Portland Tribune.

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