Final Project


In my JMS 430 Digital Journalism class this semester, I learned about my digital footprint, digital hygiene and safety, how to use the google drive most effectively – particularly google sheets and google maps – how to create, code and customize a website, how to best conduct interviews and take photos, and how to collect data and research topics well. I feel like this class helped me gain confidence to build my online portfolio and digital presence. I want to use the skills I learned in this class not only to better showcase my collection of work, but also as a medium through which to present and publish it. Moreover, I think that these are lifelong skills to have in an increasingly digital world. Whether it’s protecting my identity and information online or curating a positive professional brand, I know what I learned in this class will help carry me both professionally and personally.

Developing the Project

When I initially decided to do this story, I thought it would be a straightforward case of looking at the encampment ban, policies that were pending or currently in place, what organizations existed and what people needed. As my research progressed, however, I felt like it needed a shift. In conducting interviews, I learned so much about the realities the unhoused communities faced, common misconceptions, and decided to revamp the story. I felt that it was important to let the local community tell their own stories rather than a data-focused list of information and facts. My research changed my perspective on the story and I realized that it was no longer mine to tell but theirs. Therefore, I decided to dedicate more of it to interviews and personal profiles of those actually out on the streets, whether that was helping or living on them.

In that, there were a lot of journalistic and ethical guidelines to follow. When I reached out and requested interviews with organizations and their leadership, several of them asked to know what my questions would be so they could better prepare answers. I remember learning last semester that interviews weren’t meant to be scripted or for them to have the questions beforehand. I had to tell them that I couldn’t give them the exact questions but instead offered the general idea of what I was looking for and said that their answers would guide my questions. To be honest, there was only so much information to be had online and I was acutely aware that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. After doing research on each organization and their mission, I formulated a few general questions but let the answers guide where I dug into next. This faced a bit of pushback from a couple of board members of each organization but at the end of the day, they were really good interviews. I didn’t use all of them for the sake of focus in the story, but each time I spoke to someone they were very helpful in connecting me with other resources to dig deeper into my research.

The next ethical and journalistic guideline I had to navigate was photographing and interviewing members of the unhoused community downtown. Permission is so important and necessary but also one of my biggest obstacles. Some of those I spoke to were uncomfortable being photographed, most of the times we went out at night where a flash would’ve been invasive, and several wanted their identities shielfield or were reluctant to talk at all. When I went out, I carried my camera and my phone to record interviews. The streets of downtown were constantly noisy but I didn’t want to get too close to their face with the microphone and make them uncomfortable. With most of the outreach events being at night, my trips in February weren’t conducive to photography due to lack of lighting and not wanting to use flash. People got nervous if I had my camera out and with it being so cold, most preferred to stay inside their tents and sleeping bags rather than talk to me. With Unhoused United, I interviewed the founder of the organization, Mesean, and we tried to coordinate a day I could see and photograph his operation giving pizza out on a Sunday afternoon. However, every Sunday in February and some in March, something would come up or we had a lot of rain, and the event would get canceled or postponed. Long story short, I was never able to see the work he does and much of my initial month was hitting dead ends. It wasn’t until later in march when I finally felt like I was making progress

For this story, I felt like it was important to give faces to the names behind the interview and make it more personal for the reader. It wasn’t until the very last day when I went out with Streets of Hope that I was able to talk to, photograph, and include the names of two people; one who had just arrived on the street and another who’d recently left it. They had rich and informative interviews with different perspectives and experiences. It was on this particular night that I realized this story had become more than just an assignment for me and I had a desire to share everything I’d learned and gathered to a broader audience in hopes that their perspective on the unhoused community would change and have as much of an impact on them as it had on me.

In terms of digital techniques I used, I felt like it was important to include a little bit of data and a visualization of downtown through the google map. I was thinking about doing a graph but decided against it because I only wanted to show the change and population increase from 2023 into 2024, seeing as last year was when the encampment ban came into effect. This was to show that putting camping bans downtown hasn’t in any way improved the issue but rather just moved it elsewhere. Therefore, I elected for the infographic which had a mix of information and visual elements to maintain reader attention amidst all the numbers.

Digital Media Experience

This project and the medium through which it was executed really helped me grasp the concept we learned in class because we got to practice it through real life application right away. Getting to physically follow along with instructional visuals really helped reinforce what we were being taught.

I’ve used google sheets for a long time to plan out my schedule but this was the first time I got to understand the full capacity of what it could be used for and how efficient it was. I also felt like my comfortability with Adobe Express improved a lot as well as I got to use what I learned in previous classes and build on it this semester. WordPress was quite intimidating at first but I got the hang of it eventually and seeing the code, HTML and CC I’d written come to life for the first time was really exciting. I definitely felt more comfortable experimenting and adjusting customizations by the end of the class. WordPress is something I will probably go on to use a lot, especially because I want to build more of an online presence and create a space to collect my work over the years. I’m excited to see what else I can do with it and am glad I got to gain this skill from this class.

I didn’t use social media tools as much for this project and in this class but it definitely made me more aware not only of how my activity is tracked, but also how to better engage my audience should I wish to do the influencing. I definitely feel like I can now better leverage social media as a tool to increase my reach for audiences to see my work.

Overall, I would say I enjoyed the visual learning aspects of class as well as getting to directly take the concepts from class with us into the real world and use it to put together the digital project. I especially liked the interviewing and photojournalism aspect of my story because it was so eye-opening. The website itself felt satisfying to build from the ground up as it came together piece by piece. Looking back, we did so much and it would’ve been very overwhelming had it not been broken up into manageable, bite sized pieces each week.