In this annotation, Crysta Jones interviews Shianne Jones, a junior journalism student, to discuss the process of reporting on Jackson County Schools’ participation decline in their Nutrition Program during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why did you choose to write this story? How did you come by this story?
Shianne Jones: My beat for Newsource is to find any, and all things newsworthy going on in within Jackson County’s Board of Education. A lot of the news tips I decide to follow are not directly given to me, or placed on social media all the time, so sometimes I have to do a little digging.
I thought back to things that were memorable or important to me when I was in high school, and I remember the lunch program being a big help for a lot of families.
We’re in the middle of a pandemic, so I immediately thought that a lot of people must be in need of free or reduced lunch right now with the way the economy and jobs have been impacted. While the application pool hadn’t increased like I predicted before following through with the story, there was still some really important news that I’m glad I uncovered.
What are some of the difficulties of reporting from an area in which you are unfamiliar?
SJ: I would say the biggest difficulty from reporting in this county would be lack of contacts or sources, and having little to no background knowledge about the county. It has been a true task learning how to navigate and find adequate sourcing for my news stories, and sometimes when I am talking to sources, they will speak about things that are sort of a staple in their community, and I will have to ask for clarification.
How long did it take you to complete the reporting and researching process (excluding writing) for this story?
SJ: The length of time it takes me to complete a report is usually dependent on how soon a source gets back to me. I try to constantly have two or three story ideas pending in the background of the story that I’m currently working on in the forefront. I will have a base and general direction of where I want the story to go, so compiling the information after the interviews are done can take about 1-2 days.
Did you have any difficulty contacting Jackson County School System officials? How did you come into contact with Debra Morris? Jason Wester?
SJ: Finding my main sources for the education beat is not all that difficult. I was able to find contact information for both Dr. Morris and Mr. Wester from the official school website and county page, and they responded within a pretty good length of time.
What are some tips you would give younger journalists in contacting school officials and employees?
SJ: Some advice I would give to reporters would be to be consistent (but not nagging) and firm with dates and deadlines. Anytime I am trying to get an interview and I don’t get a response, I will immediately send a follow up email or do another phone call and leave a voicemail.
However, I try to do this in a manner that shows I am still considerate of people’s time and lives, and that I understand everyone is not rushing to do an interview, especially in the midst of a pandemic. As far as being firm, I usually make It clear that I need to hear back from someone by a certain set date and/or time when I am suggesting times to do an interview.
Lastly, sometimes one source can easily lead you to another. I have been using this tip a lot recently when trying to give a more personable aspect to my stories and cannot quite find a parent or student to talk with. I will ask the interviewee if they know anyone that may be willing to speak and that usually helps a lot.
Some advice I would give to reporters would be to be consistent (but not nagging) and firm with dates and deadlines.
How did you come in contact with Precious Jones?
SJ: I worked at the dining hall for quite a long time at the start of my college experience, and a lot of people that worked there were from/lived in Athens. When I was struggling to find a parent source, I thought back to one of my coworkers, and I found her number and asked her if she knew anyone with kids that attended a school in Jackson County.
What software did you use to build the infographic?
SJ: I used the website Canva.com
How long did it take you to build the infographic?
SJ: Honestly, it didn’t take long at all to assemble. However, because I’m a little bit of a perfectionist, I played around with the placement of words and visuals for a while just to make sure the graphic didn’t look overly crowded.
Where did you get the information displayed in the infographic?
SJ: The information for the infographic came from a combination of the Jackson County website and my interview with Dr. Morris.
Shianne Jones is a junior majoring journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in English at the University of Georgia.
Crysta Jones is a graduate student in Emerging Media in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.
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