Learn more about the work of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University during 2019-2020. If you want to be the first to know what's happening at the CMI, sign up for our monthly email newsletters: tinyurl.com/CMInewsletters
All-Abilities MediaJournalists grow byworking togetherBy Francesca DabeccoAll-Abilities MediaA Valid Podcast focuseson COVID-19 threatBy Jennifer Szweda JordanPhoto by Jennifer Szweda JordanErin Gannon, who started her podcasting career at the Center for Media Innovation in2015, sits between CMI director Andy Conte and NPR’s Melissa Block at the MediaInnovators Speaker Series in March 2019.Prior to the pandemic, podcasterErin Gannon and I met at the Center forMedia Innovation a couple times a monthwhere I worked with her on UnabridgedPress’ collaboration with the CMI: theAll-Abilities Media Project.Erin is the host of a two-time GoldenQuill award-winning podcast, “Look Who’sHere.” She is 48, has Down syndrome, andwhen she walks into a room, she fills up thespace with her enthusiastic presence. As afreelance journalist (and Point Parkalumna), it’s a privilege for me to be backat the CMI and work with her, as well aselevate other stories from people in thedisability community.everyone there and what they do...It feelsthe breadth of new voices invited into the pages 58-59.10 You got that right, Erin. Goodie, it will be.11Recently, Erin and I caught up on a Zoomcall and chatted about how we’re dealingwith being stuck at home, what little thingsmake us happy during these crazy timesand what we look forward to when we canreturn to the CMI and work together again.Erin has been doing lots of crafts, likepainting rocks with her best friend Marisawho lives at a group home with her. I’veenjoyed planting my small urban gardenoutside my apartment on the North Side.We both agreed that we miss experiencinglife in downtown Pittsburgh.For Erin, being on Point Park University’scampus is especially meaningful. “I neverwent to college,” she said. “Watchinglike I’m in college.”On campus, she says CMI Director Andy Conteis an inspiration to her.“It’s not just what he does,” Erin says, “it’swho he is.”As it happens, Andy was a mentor to me too.As my professor in entrepreneurial journalismduring undergrad, he made me believe in myown abilities as a storyteller. In that way, Erinand I are having parallel experiences.Together, we’ve worked on journalismskill-building, like note-taking and preparingquestions for interviews. I also accompaniedErin on an exciting media visit to Y108 radio.“Each time I come to the CMI, I learn newthings, like different ideas to work on anddifferent questions to ask. I just feelcomfortable doing it,” Erin said.She has taught me a lot too. Erin has such agrand curiosity, and she makes interviewinglook so easy.“From beginning to now, I’m morecomfortable now,” she said.“In interviews, sometimes I doget a little nervous,” Erin said.“I take deep breaths and justclose my eyes for a few secondsand just focus on the actualquestions.”I think that is some great advice — and notjust for interviewing. As the days pass withgreat uncertainty, we can all find somecomfort in taking a deep breath and focusingon the present moment in front of us.Before we wrapped up the call, I told Erin thatwhile we are eager to get back to normalcy,we can appreciate being able to connect fromthe comfort and safety of our homes… Andone day, we will meet again at the CMI.“Goodie!” she said.Photo by All Abilities MediaPoint Park University broadcast student Nick Tommarello (left) works with disability advocate Alisa Grishman to create a podcastmission statement. They’re in the CMI’s podcast studio.How far our work to integratepeople with disabilities in media has come!Two years after we invited people withdisabilities to air grievances about newscoverage at an event on the North Side,some of the very same people are part ofCOVID-19 news coverage.A Valid Podcast, streamed live onUnabridged Press’ YouTube and Facebookpages, and carried on Apple and othermajor podcast platforms, brings togetherour students and staff along with professionaljournalists. What makes A Valid Podcaststand apart from other news coverage isconversation. Disability advocates AlisaGrishman, Josie Badger and others areanalysts on the program.They’re engaging in conversation with reporterslike the Post-Gazette’s Sean Hamill,who’s been covering COVID-19 cases anddeaths at Beaver County’s largest nursinghome. The advocates are gaining a betterunderstanding of journalism, and reporterslike Hamill are hearing an underrepresentedperspective. The episode with Hamillalso included a recently discharged nursinghome patient. Her sobering story is worth alisten, and is featured in the illustrations onA Valid Podcast is an outgrowth of theCenter for Media Innovation’s collaborationwith Unabridged Press that aims to integratepeople with disabilities in media coverage.Season Two of A Valid Podcast is hosted byAlana Gibbs and Darah Thompson, sisterswith invisible disabilities who are eager toparticipate in the podcast in part because,as women of color, they are underrepresentedin disability news coverage.To learn more, or to participate in this work,contact email@example.com or412-339-0748.