‘Project 573: the American Response’ offers local coverage of recession

The capstone team includes students from each journalism sequence.

“Project 573: the American Response,” a journalism capstone project using various platforms to tell local stories related to the economic recession, launched Monday.

The website, project573.com, was created by a group of 12 seniors in the School of Journalism, with two students representing each sequence. Combining text with photos, videos and infographics, the website’s stories focus on the impact of the recession on mid-Missouri residents.

After spending the fall semester developing the project’s concepts and themes, the team began this semester looking for stories through community members and organizations. Project adviser Reuben Stern said the group hoped to present a new take on the recession.

“They’re trying to uncover stories that haven’t been told so many times and to link what goes on in a place like mid-Missouri to national reporting that’s centered out of New York City or Washington D.C.,” Stern said.

Team members said they wanted their stories to have both local and national appeal.

“One of the really important things for us was that this was compelling to mid-Missourians, because it’s about them, but we wanted this to be relatable to everyone nationally, because we’re not the only region that’s suffering,” Project 573 graphic designer Zach Wade said.

Although economic reports often focus on statistics, Project 573 reporters said they aimed to write for a wide audience.

“A lot of the stories that have been put out there have been focused toward people who are familiar with economic terms,” Project 573 writer Catherine O’Neill said. “It affects all of us in some way, so we wanted to create a website for people from all different backgrounds so they could access information in a way that’s personable and relatable.”

By bringing together students specializing in different sequences, students were able to create a multimedia experience.

“They can match the appropriate media with the appropriate part of the story,” Stern said. “When you put together a team of students from across the journalism school with a full range of skills among them, they can all contribute to making the project everything it can be.”

For example, students were able to integrate promotional videos from the 1970s into their piece about the 2002 closing of a brick plant that was a key part of the economy in Mexico, Mo. Through video, they brought a human side to the story.

Wade said graphics help make numbers more accessible.

“We wanted to focus on people, but part of the story has to be told with numbers,” Wade said. “To give an impression of how big a deal this is, we use graphics.”

The project has two more rounds of content planned for this semester. Team members said they hoped that younger journalism students would apply the cross-platform model to stories other than the recession.

“Journalism is coming to mean so much more in this time,” O’Neill said. “We’d love for students to carry on that model and bring together students from across the journalism school to tell stories.”

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