Learning from the best

Thank you to the Knight Digital Media Center for accepting me as a fellow for their June 2010 "Multimedia Reporting & Convergence Workshop" at UC Berkeley.  I'll be honing my video editing and web design skills with Paul Grabowicz, Samantha Grant, Marilyn Pittman, Jeremy Rue, Jerry Monti and Scot Hacker from June 13 – 18.  I am going to hang around the Bay Area to do some reporting for upcoming stories.  InvestigateWest members, followers: if you want to meet up or trade tips, email me at kyoung@invw.org.  Also, a shout-out to the Reynolds Center for hosting a free workshop in Portland on Friday, May 7th: “Investigative Business Journalism on a Beat,” taught by Pulitzer winner (and adjunct professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism) Gary Cohn and Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism Professor and former Washington Post investigative reporter Alec Klein.

Bringing Poverty Out of the Shadows

Rarely do we get to see such in-depth reporting on poverty as has just been produced by Claudia Rowe and Mike Kane for the Marguerite Casey Foundation.In a series of articles written for the foundation's Equal Voice online newspaper, Rowe illuminates how the recession has devastated families across the U.S. with lasting generational consequences.Together with Kane's compelling black-and-white photography, Rowe's reporting drills down on the systemic failures and problems of perception that are at the heart of class disparities in the United States.  I used to work with both of them at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, so I can attest personally to the diligence and discipline that they bring to their respective fields. Check it out for yourself at www.equalvoiceforfamilies.org.  

Simple math: Health care = jobs

This is simple math: Health care equals jobs. And the new health care reform law means even more jobs. In many communities across the United States, the health care industry is the region’s top employer. Indeed, if you put this in a global perspective, the National Health Service in the United Kingdom now employs 1 in every 23 workers in that country, some 1.3 million people. (The NHS is the third largest employer in the world, only ranking behind the Chinese army and India Rail.)The numbers in Indian Country show that same kind of growth. Look at the figures before President Johnson’s Great Society (and the expansion of federal programs):  The Bureau of Indian Affairs employed 16,035 full time employees in 1969, while the Indian Health Service employed 5,740 people. That trend is now reversed. In 2009 the BIA employed 8,257 full time workers and the IHS had grown to 15,127 employees. These are just the number of federal employees, because tribes or organizations administer roughly half of the Indian health system.The demand for health care workers in Indian Country represents a public policy paradox: We need jobs in communities where the official unemployment rate is about 50 percent and yet the Indian Health Service reports shortages of health professionals.The IHS describes its employment situation this way:“The physician vacancy rate now stands at approximately 21%, and the average length of service of the approximately 800 federally employed physicians in Indian health is 10 years.

Art helps at-risk youth survive and thrive

The greatest risk for the development of a writer is self-censorship. Last night, I attended another session of a poetry group with Friends of the Children, where volunteers, mentors, and a therapist all gather to help foster youth express in poetry the anxiety of growing up in unstable situations. And weekly, we remind our teens that they can say anything they wish—they can swear, they don’t have to spell anything correctly, and they can talk about topics that their teachers forbid them to mention—gangs, abuse, rape, fights.And yet each week, I see these youth decide that something they want to say is not worth saying. They decide these things because they have been previously led to believe that their experience should not be encouraged and validated.During Seattle University’s first seminar on family homelessness for journalists and scholars, Vince Matulionis of United Way mentioned that one of the most difficult parts of being homeless can be the fact that people do not make eye contact with someone on the street or with someone asking for assistance. Each avoidance, he said, can take a little piece of dignity from someone who is homeless, just like each act of self-censorship robs a piece of confidence from these teens.Though it is commonly thought that the term “homeless” only refers to someone without a house over their head, the term, as Carol, Cassandra and I are learning, has come to represent a much wider variety of people for whom stable living is an issue—foster youth, detained youth, women who couch-surf to escape domestic violence, or someone who is just about to lose their home. So how does one learn to express oneself, to tell one’s story, when food, housing, and safety are the most immediate concerns?

Join the FCC’s fight for net neutrality next week

The Federal Commerce Commission’s goal of net neutrality moved a little farther out of reach this month, after US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled the FCC lacks the authority to regulate major broadband Internet providers.The high court’s decision means the FCC has no legal grounds to step in, should Big Cable decide to slow their customers’ connection speeds, increase Internet costs, or filter certain pages from search results.A customer could, of course switch her broadband Internet provider if she found her service too slow or too costly. The problem is that very little competition exists between major telecommunications companies in many regions of the country. As Timothy Karr points out, the FCC's National Broadband Plan reveals only four percent of Americans have more than two choices for wireless Internet providers.And the FCC can’t prevent these Internet providers, companies like Comcast, Verizon Communications Inc., AT&T Inc, and Time Warner, from making some Internet content easier to get to than other Website.As things stands now, Internet users can connect to any page—whether it be a state-of-the-art Website run by a multi-million dollar corporation, or a teenager’s personal blog— at the same speed.