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UPenn will offer new course on writing about mental health

Photo of Stephen Fried
Photo of Stephen Fried behind a podium, discussing his new book “Rush: Revolution, Madness, and Benjamin Rush, the Visionary Doctor Who Became a Founding Father.” (Image: Wikipedia)

Author, investigative journalist and Columbia J-school professor Stephen Fried will teach a new nonfiction writing course at University of Pennsylvania next semester. The course, which which will focus on writing about mental health and addiction, will be among the first undergraduate courses of its kind in the U.S.

Students taking the spring class, titled “Advanced Nonfiction Writing: Writing about Mental Health and Addiction,” will hear from guest lecturers and will read and discuss writings about behavioral health.

After covering mental health as a journalist for years, Fried said he understands the importance of teaching students how to report on these topics in a nuanced way. Uninformed writing about this subject matter can perpetuate the stigma surrounding mental illness and seeking psychiatric help.

Fried is the author of numerous books about the prescription drug industry and mental illness. In 2015 he co-authored Patrick Kennedy’s memoir A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction.

Read more about Fried’s new class at UPenn here.

Mishandling mental health crises to blame for spike in officer-involved shootings

police shootings in PHX
Above: A close-up photo of yellow crime scene tape. Improving the way police are trained to interact with people who have mental health issues or other disabilities is one of nine recommendations included in the report. (Photo: Shutterstock)

What accounts for the sharp increase in the number of officer-involved shootings in Phoenix last year? A lack of mental health resources, according to a report released by the National Police Foundation on Friday. The report, which was commissioned by the city of Phoenix as a response to last year’s spike in incidences of officer-involved shootings, points to a number of underlying causes for the uptick. That police officers are fielding a growing number of 911 calls involving people with mental health issues is one of them.

Phoenix police officers who were interviewed for the study said they felt unprepared to respond to these kind of situations. Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams added that law enforcement officers shouldn’t be the first (or only) line of help available to people who are experiencing a mental health crisis and that many of the calls her department receives could be rerouted to alternative resources.

Read the Cronkite News story online. You can also download a copy of the National Police Foundation’s 72-page report here.

NCDJ Accepting Entries in Annual Disability Reporting Contest

The Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability
The Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability

The National Center on Disability and Journalism at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication is now accepting entries for the 2019 Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability, the only journalism contest devoted exclusively to disability coverage.

Winners will receive a total of $17,000 in cash awards for first-, second- and third-place finishes in large media and small media categories. First-place winners in each category will be awarded $5,000 and are invited to the Cronkite School to give a public lecture in fall 2019. Second-place winners will receive $2,000; third-place winners receive $1,000; and honorable mention winners are awarded $500.

Journalists working in digital, print and broadcast media are eligible to enter. Entries are accepted from outside the U.S., although the work submitted must be in English. There is no entry fee.

Entries must have been published or aired between July 1, 2018, and July 31, 2019. The deadline to enter is Aug. 5, 2019. For more information and to enter, go to https://ncdj.org/contest/

Entries are judged by professional journalists and experts on disability issues. Past judges have included “PBS NewsHour” anchor Judy Woodruff; Tony Coelho, former six-term U.S. congressman from California and the primary sponsor of the Americans With Disabilities Act; and former Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Leon Dash.

The 2018 winners included journalists from National Public Radio; Dallas Morning News; ProPublica; WNYC/New York Public Radio; Kaiser Health News; KING Television, Seattle; WBEZ Chicago Public Media; and New Mobility Magazine.

The Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability is administered each year by the NCDJ. It is supported by a gift from Katherine Schneider, a retired clinical psychologist who also supports the Schneider Family Book Award, honoring the best children’s book each year that captures the disability experience for children and adolescents. That award is administered by the American Library Association.

Schneider, who has been blind since birth, said she hopes the award will help journalists improve their coverage of disability issues, moving beyond “inspirational” stories that don’t accurately represent the lives of people with disabilities.

“That kind of stuff is remarkable, but that’s not life as most of us live it,” Schneider said.

The NCDJ, which has been housed at the Cronkite School since 2008, offers resources and materials for journalists covering disability issues and topics, including a widely used disability language stylebook in both English and Spanish.

 

 

#LetUsPlayUs: Blind Americans protest new CW television series “In the Dark”

Above: Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, is interviewed during the organization’s protest on April 2nd in midtown Manhattan. (Video: SCOOTERCASTER / YouTube)


Members of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) gathered in midtown Manhattan on April 2nd to protest “In The Dark,” a new television series on the CW network. The purpose of the protest #LetUsPlayUs was to highlight the lack of authentic representation of blind people in the entertainment industry; “In the Dark” features a lead actor who isn’t blind in real life, but who plays the role of a blind person on the show.

In the weeks leading up to the protest, the National Federation of the Blind issued a statement condemning the show and calling for its cancellation. The organization also wrote to the show’s producers and to CW/CBS executives requesting an urgent meeting. The NFB received a response from the show’s executives stating that they are interested in meeting with the NFB after the first season has aired.

You can also listen to NFB President Mark Riccobono recap the protest here.

#LetUsPlayUs on Twitter

Athletes feel bullied by classification process to compete in Paralympics

A collage of para athletes competing in swimming, track, basketball, and archery events. Image: paralympic.org
A collage of para athletes competing in different swimming, track, basketball, and archery events. Image: paralympic.org

Before competing in the Paralympics, para athletes must undergo a controversial disability classification process to determine which sport classes (categories based on disability type) they are eligible for. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) governs this classification process and each country that competes at the Paralympic Games is required to abide by its code.

The classification process is intense, in part because of widespread accusations that some athletes fake or exaggerate their disabilities during classification to improve their chances of competition success. The process can also be degrading, according to many Paralympic athletes.

Read more about the controversy surrounding the Paralympics classification process.

How to write better stories on students with disabilities

Image: indianadisabilityawareness.org A poster for the "I'm Not Your Inspiration" awareness campaign by the Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities. A portrait-style photo of a boy is juxtaposed against an orange backsplash with text that reads: I'm Not Your Inspiration (I'm Your Classmate).
Image: indianadisabilityawareness.org

Posters for the “I’m Not Your Inspiration” awareness campaign by the Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities. In one, a portrait-style photo of a boy is juxtaposed against an orange backsplash with text that reads: I’m Not Your Inspiration (I’m Your Classmate).

As journalist and NCDJ disability language style guide author Amy Silverman writes, “Disability journalism is a hot beat right now. But just because you’re covering disability doesn’t mean you’re doing it right.”

In a column for Phi Delta Kappan, a professional journal for teachers, Silverman discusses the challenges of reporting in schools and the ways in which journalists still far short when it comes to telling relevant and nuanced stories about people with disabilities. Read more of Amy Silverman’s column online.

Learn about the concept of “inspiration porn” in this video of journalist and comedian Stella Young’s talk at TEDxSydney:

College admissions scandal hurts students with disabilities

A stock photo of SAT test scores. A score of 1600 is circled in red colored pencil.
A stock photo of SAT test scores. A score of 1600 is circled in red colored pencil.

Celebrities and wealthy parents involved in the college admissions bribery scheme which recently made headlines took advantage of testing accommodations meant for students with disabilities, federal authorities say. According to court documents, the parents were instructed to lie in order to secure extra time and a private room for their kids to take the SAT or ACT. The parents were told to falsely claim that their children had learning disabilities–and to obtain the necessary medical documentation for proof.

For students with learning disabilities, there is often a discrepancy between academic performance and their intelligence. Advocates for students with learning disabilities believe the scandal could make it harder for students with actual learning disabilities to get the test-taking accommodations they need.

You can read the NPR story about the scandal here.

Disability rights activist Carrie Ann Lucas’ tragic and unnecessary death

Photo of the late disability rights advocate Carrie Ann Lucas.
A photographic portrait of the late disability rights advocate Carrie Ann Lucas. (Photo: Carrie Ann Lucas’s Facebook page)

Carrie Ann Lucas, a disability rights activist, died in late February because her health insurer declined to pay for her necessary medication.

When a cold turned into a lung infection in January 2018, Lucas, who was ventilator-dependent, needed antibiotics, but her insurer balked at the cost of the most effective medication available, setting off a cascade of events that left her in ill health for much of 2018.

While a New York Times obituary praised Carrie Ann Lucas for her many achievements as an advocate and activist, the obit did not mention the real cause of her death.

Read Carrie’s story here.

NCDJ Releases Disability Language Style Guide in Spanish

NCDJ NCDJ, National Center on Disability and Journalism, Disability Language Style Guide, Spanish
NCDJ Releases Disability Language Style Guide in Spanish

The National Center on Disability and Journalism at Arizona State University has released its popular disability language style guide in Spanish.

The NCDJ, which is headquartered at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, provides guidance and support for journalists and communications professionals as they write about and report on disability issues and people with disabilities.

The style guide was recently updated to contain nearly 200 words and terms commonly used when referring to people with disabilities.

“The guide is used around the world but until now has been available primarily in English,” said NCDJ Executive Director Kristin Gilger, the senior associate dean at the Cronkite School. “The new Spanish-language version will make it possible for us to reach far more people with advice on disability-related language choices.”

She said the guide is not prescriptive. Instead, recommendations are intended to help communications professionals avoid offensive language while also being clear and accurate.

The Spanish translation of the guide was made possible by a grant from the Ford Foundation, which provides support for NCDJ programs and services.

In addition to the style guide, the center administers an annual contest recognizing the best reporting on disability in the country and provides training and resources for journalists, public relations professionals, educators and others concerned about how people with disability are portrayed.

Both the English and Spanish versions of the disability language style guide are available in downloadable format at https://ncdj.org/style-guide/.

NCDJ Disability Language Style Guide featured on SPJ website

SPJ website features NCDJ disability language style guide
The Society of Professional Journalists recently highlighted the NCDJ style guide on its website.

Earlier this week the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) featured our disability language style guide on its Journalist’s Toolbox website, which highlights digital resources to help journalists in their reporting. As the SPJ site points out, a Spanish-language version of the NCDJ style guide is now available on NCDJ.org. Journalists can access the guide in both languages on our website.