The following articles were written for my Reporting 1 course at the University of Oregon under the direction of Professor Lori Shontz. In the class I covered multiple university events as a way to gain the proper skills necessary to construct a news story.
Crossing Borders with Ted Conover
Ted Conover shared his experiences as an investigative and immersive journalist with University of Oregon students and faculty by explaining his efforts to tell the stories of “those missing from the national conversation.”
Journalist and professor Ted Conover was invited to speak at UO’s second annual Words Worth program on Thursday with a focus on his 1987 book “Coyotes: A Journey Across Borders with America’s Mexican Migrants.” Conover explained the benefits and disadvantages of going undercover as a journalist as well as the proper balance a journalist must master in order to complete such immersive work.
“Deep understanding does not come in a hurry,” said Words Worth coordinator Lauren Kessler. “It is the result of a thoughtful, careful ethically challenging process that depends both on intense curiosity and deep empathy.”
Conover regularly challenges ethics of the boundaries and emotions of others with his work, such as his undercover reportage as a guard of a New York prison, his travels on the railroad with the homeless or the focus of Thursday night, his voyage across the border with several Mexican migrants. Through his unique journalistic process, Conover is able to share the small details of lost life that often slip through the cracks.
During the lecture, student journalist Christopher Trotchie asked a question regarding guilt. Conover responded that he occasionally felt guilt for pretending to live the life of a less fortunate person, knowing that he himself had a better life waiting for him at home.
“Journalism is hard to do without hurting some people’s feelings,” Conover said. It’s possible to leave some people feeling betrayed.”
“I think he answered the question well…Sometimes as journalists we hurt people’s feelings,” said Trotchie. “We have to have the skill set to be able to make those calls when those decisions need to be made. That’s what I’m going to college for.”
Conover related society to people living in bubbles. By remaining in our own bubbles, he explained, we are oblivious and blind to what is happening in the bubble of someone unlike ourselves. He urged the audience to step out of their comfort zone, use their ears instead of obtrusive technology, ask questions and tell the stories of those who do not have a voice.
Conover said, “There’s so many stories like this waiting to be told.”
Read more about Coyotes and see more of Conover's work at tedconover.com.
"You Believe in Dragons But Not Diversity"
For Tanya DePass, what began as an angry tweet at 6 a.m. turned into a nonprofit organization entitled I Need Diverse Games.
A few years ago, in the height of her frustration as an underrepresented queer woman of color, DePass took to social media to express her feelings toward uninclusive games using the hashtag #ineeddiversegames. It was not until a friend with more Twitter followers shared her tweets that DePass’s voice was heard by a much larger audience. The movement gathered a following of like-minded individuals, and quickly grew into a full nonprofit organization.
Wednesday Nov. 29, DePass arrived at the University of Oregon after a red eye flight from Chicago to participate in the Department of Women and Gender Studies’ speaker series entitled “Keywords for Video Game Studies.” DePass’ lecture, entitled “Diversity,” was the first of the series, and will be followed by two others entitled “Nature” and “Violence.”
For many, video games are a form of escape in order to abandon the real world for a few hours and live in a fantasy world. DePass, having played video games for the majority of her life, sees an issue with the way most characters are portrayed.
“I don’t get to see myself in the games I love,” she said.
The most popular games on the market today often feature an 18-30-year-old white male protagonist who is either on a journey to save a woman or is battling what DePass calls “man pain.” If diversity is attempted in video games, according to DePass, the characters are almost always stereotyped or “troped.” For example, queer characters are portrayed as pathetic and unhappy due to their sexuality, and black women are evil and over exaggerated in appearance.
DePass explained that the root of the issue with games is where and by whom they are created. The majority of video game creators are straight white males. Any other gender, race or sexuality, she explained, are highly underrepresented not only in games, but in the corporations that create them.
University of Oregon student Auston Ludwick aspires to someday pursue a career in the gaming industry. He agrees with DePass and the I Need Diverse Games movement, and hopes to someday make changes in the way games are designed.
“I would definitely hire more diverse people to help me create the video games,” he said. Ludwick finds himself gravitating toward fantastical story based games, his favorite
being “Bayonetta,” which features a powerful, dominatrix-esque female protagonist. He finds her extremely empowering, and would like to bring more characters like her to life in the gaming industry.
DePass’s movement grows stronger with each white and heteronormative game that is released. She and her team are making an effort to open the eyes of the gaming industry to the offensive, incorrect and underrepresented games that continue to be created.
“People are very stuck in the past,” she said, “we just need to bring them forward.”
Follow Tanya DePass on Twitter @cypheroftyr