Behind the print and Web pages of The Stand are student reporters, photographers and designers from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, plus several community correspondents and a part-time project director.
They are all dedicated to one mission, according to The Stand’s founder, professor Steve Davis: “Cover the stories on the South Side of the city that aren’t being covered.”
Though the South Side neighborhood sits just beside Syracuse University, Davis admitted to being unfamiliar with the area himself at first, and so were the journalism students in his classes.
In an effort to uncover the stories there that were not being reported in the primary local media outlets, which can tend to focus on crime and violence, Davis got his students involved — first in regularly scheduled classes and eventually in a standalone class devoted just to the South Side. That class, Urban Affairs reporting, enrolled a dozen students in the fall semester of 2010. It was open to journalism students from all backgrounds—including broadcast, magazine, newspaper, and photography.
These students covered South Side beats, producing a free monthly paper while also refreshing the website at mysouthsidestand.com.
A number of South Siders have attended free weekend workshops sponsored by The Stand, and some have become paid content contributors. Workshops have covered reporting and writing, photography and video.
The Stand includes multimedia content on its website.
Over the course of the last semester (September — December 2010), the Urban Affairs reporters identified interesting people in the Syracuse community who had ties to the South Side, and documented a small slice of their lives in a dozen 2- to 3-minute videos.
Then the staff of The Stand looked beyond the South Side —globally. From Dec. 28 to Jan. 9, the Urban Affairs reporting class was in Grahamstown, South Africa, a similar-size city of a little over 100,000 that — also like Syracuse —includes a university. (We were also drawn to Grahamstown because it is home to the 140-year-old Grocott’s Mail, which bills itself as the oldest independent newspaper in South Africa.)
While in Grahamstown, the reporters created another dozen or so multimedia pieces about the people they met there, and the lives they lead.
To wrap up, the class headed home through Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa, to learn more about the country’s culture and history.
The students traveled with Ashley Kang, the Stand’s director, as well as with a Syracuse resident who studied abroad at Rhodes University several years ago and has since returned to South Africa several times. Jason Torreano helped coordinate story assignments for the students, backgrounded them on the history of the area and even created some basic online language lessons for them.
“I was so excited to be going back with SU,” Torreano said. “It’s just an amazing, amazing place.”
Davis has always wanted the students to experience a different way of life. “I think it’s very important for students to have that global reporting experience,” Davis said.
He also said it is important for students to have a global experience for personal reasons.
“I think everyone will find that they are changed, in some way, from this experience,” Davis said.
He hopes to have this year’s project become a template for future ones. The World Journalism Project would explore other areas of the world and — in its own small way — introduce everyday people to one another.
And have a lot of fun in the process.