It's been a roller coaster of a time writing for the UW's student-run newspaper. I've made great friends, however, and wrote far too much for my own good. I decided to never take up an editor position there because I feel strongly about writing stories, being on the ground, and doing my job as a reporter. Nonetheless, the memories have been great and I was lucky to have known so many great people in that newsroom over the course of three years.
I just learned today that I am receiving the runner-up award for Best Health & Science Reporting from the SPJ's Northwest Region Excellence in Journalism Contest! This story moved me to tears multiple times, out of frustration, out of sadness, and out of anger.
I had to deal with a very unfriendly public informations officer from Jail Health Services (JHS). The JHS Director was great, but also didn't take me and my work seriously so he ended up saying things he regretted and argued with my editor about whether he said them or not (he did). The man also notified me at one point that he accidentally shredded the original copy of a medical grievance record I specifically asked for. This was a year-long investigative piece. I first interviewed Michael Hayes — who suffers from drug addiction, homelessness, and schizoaffective disorder — in Harborview's Psych Ward. But don't be impressed by that, he's a wonderful person, and by no means fits the stigma everyone associates with these things. He's just trying to make it through life as best he can. This assignment also required of me to delve into the nuances of getting signed access by Hayes for medical records, sifting through literally hundreds of pages of records from JHS, and jumping through a lot of hoops.
Mentally ill people in Washington’s jails or prisons struggle with prescription adherence. It takes days to register and verify medical information from outside facilities (like hospitals) or from officials (like psychiatrists). It becomes harder still because the list of approved medications can vary from prison to prison, jail to jail, said Mike Stanfill, a psychiatric and social services director for Jail Health Services (JHS), a branch of Public Health for King County correctional facilities in Seattle and the Regional Justice Center in Kent ... The 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause requires states to take responsibility for inmate medical care. But patients are often left on their own to make sure their needs are met ... Bay verified that the medications Hayes was eventually given by JHS were appropriate for his schizoaffective disorder. But they were prescribed approximately halfway through his 16-day stay ... Stanfill said: 'Unfortunately, what’s happened is jails and us have become primary care providers for a huge chunk of the population. The criminal system was never designed to manage health care, and unfortunately that’s what it’s become.'
I took a data class with The Seattle Times' data reporter Justin Mayo. He was and still is a truly fantastic mentor and from him I learned how to use the ever-so-handy Microsoft Excel to create infographics based off of loads of data, how to tell if there's dirty data, and how to make it so Excel comprehends what you want it to in order to discover information. Mayo also taught us how to take that a step further into interactive graphics with Tableau. The example below was my final project for the class, given to us with complete free reign on whatever we wanted. We had to determine a topic ourselves, find the data ourselves, clean it ourselves, set it up, organize, and make make a cohesive not-overwhelming interactive. I chose to analyze how the federal budget was divvied out in Washington state over the past couple years. See where trends were going and which departments relied on the most federal dollars. I was particularly curious about this last part because of the Trump administration and its likelihood of slashing federal funds. CLICK ON THIS POST TO SEE THE VISUALIZATION (and mess around with it)!
The selection tool at right lets you choose a branch (or not), which then changes both graphs. The upper graph shows you the general trend of money given to the branch since 2002, and the bottom graph breaks down how much each department within that branch got over the past complete biennium (2014-2015).
This was produced with the help of professor and Seattle Times reporter Justin Mayo. He allowed us to use data he already gathered and fiddle around with how to create an interactive graphic for our first time. This was after he taught us to catch "dirty data," or data with missing parts, replications, typos, and misreads by the program (Excel). We were instructed how to create a visual similar to this and asked to do it ourselves once we got home. Success!
For this one, Mayo taught us to be sure the metrics are right and what different type of tools we can use, as well as how to manage the geolocation ability without using the more advanced google earth option that you have to pay for
This article was one of my firsts in the journalism program. I decided to go the extra mile and search through articles that chronicled the spending habits of large organizations for natural disasters, and then try contacting the authors of whichever peer-reviewed article I felt was most informed. It worked! Which I really didn't expect. Once I wrote up the article, the response to it was really great, as well, which was so nice to see. Granted, rereading it now, I'm still seeing some grammatical errors in it, which is frustrating. But this was the first time I had my own photos published.
People around the globe have been asking themselves how to best help Nepal, and even more so, where to direct their donation dollars for the largest benefit.