Students tackle issues in new documentaries

Every semester, the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication hosts a student documentary night featuring the work of students in the broadcast program. This semester’s show is being held on Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. in the SJGC Lecture Hall.

Students in professor Kenneth Jones’, Specialized Reporting and TV class were paired into teams of two – a reporter and a videographer. After working on their projects all semester, the students had to discuss their topics and the filmmaking process.

They chose issues they felt would be important not only to them but also to society. Healthcare, homelessness and education are some of the issues the students tackled in their documentaries.

“People don’t know what being homeless looks like,” said Stephan Weekes, 22, a senior broadcasting student from Tampa. He worked alongside Danielle Bass, 23, a senior broadcast journalism student from Fort Lauderdale on “Lost Ones,” a documentary about homeless students.

For some of the students, the issues hit closer to home. They chose to do documentaries on obstacles that people face financially.

“Being uninsured is a big problem,” said Erneshia Edwards, 23, a senior broadcast journalism student from Fort Lauderdale. “My son went six months without insurance and that was one of the most stressful and frustrating times of my life.”

The documentary was more than a classroom assignment for her.

“I see it as a work of art,” she added. “You get close to the subjects of the documentary and the issue is no longer just a topic.”

These students also explained the different obstacles they went through to complete these projects. They explained how dealing with the issues is one thing, but dealing with the subjects is another ballgame.

Lorraine McBride, 22, a senior broadcast journalism student from Dallas said getting the subjects of her documentary on special education and black men to remember appointments was a hard task for her.

“Obtaining various records and documents and finding our two leading men were the main issues,” she said. “The people we worked with didn’t treat it as a priority, so I had to put forth more effort to make sure they knew what was going on.”

McBride wasn’t the only one who had problems with people who were documented on, but Weekes’ partner, Bass said her subjects were also hard to track down.

“Keeping up with families, and families bailing out on me was a primary issue,” she said. “They are homeless so they move a lot.”

The students said the semester-long project helped prepare them for their future.

“I polished my producing skills, because it takes a great deal of effort to consistently follow through with everything,” McBride said.

Bass said it toughened her as a reporter.

“I had to ask hard-hitting questions, because you can’t be soft with a topic like this,” Bass said.

The students made these documentaries in hopes of touching their viewers and gaining insight on their chosen topics.

“Our image of homelessness is not always correct,” Bass said. “They should not be viewed as homeless people, but people that just happen to be homeless.”

McBride said there are three lessons she would like her documentary to convey: “Don’t let anyone label or define you, be the change you want to see and always step out on faith. God’s got your back!”