Tuesday, April 25, 2006

It's seems like leading a horse to water...

When we see anything in the newspapers (or TV, or …) that purports to touch or reflect our lives, people with disabilities mostly see cartoonish stories of vapid inspiration or overcoming. This isn’t news. Today on a media center site, Susan LoTempio, assistant managing editor for readership at the Buffalo News and a person with a disability, writes about the lack of coverage of real life disability. And she offers some tips for reporters and editors to do it right.
“I'm a wheelchair user who has worked in newsrooms for 30 years,” LoTempio
writes. “And, not for lack of trying, I haven't had much success getting stories
written about the things that affect me -- and people like me -- every single
day. Things like:
Access to public places;
Subtle and not-so-subtle discrimination;
Poor medical care; and
Lack of recreational opportunities.”
I share LoTempio’s frustration. I too worked in big newspaper editorial departments and struggled not only to get good, solid coverage of disability issues, but to avoid those awful forays into sappy, patronizing stories that regularly bring groans of complaint from the disability community. It was a never-ending and largely unsuccessful effort.
If you know any reporters or editors, pass LoTempio’s column on to them. Hell, send it to your local newspapers editors and TV news editors even if you don’t know them.
“In-depth coverage of disability issues requires no more effort or skill than any other story. First, do your homework. Then report, ask, research and report some more.,” LoTempio writes. “One of the most degrading stereotypes is that we can't speak for ourselves. Journalists can certainly help change that misperception.”

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