Over the summer, five college students were selected from around the Oklahoma City area to spend a week as an NPR reporter for Next Generation Radio. TU senior media studies major Charity Barton was selected for a whirlwind week of testing her journalism skills.
Barton’s task was to produce a multimedia story. “We had to find a subject living in OKC. That part was extremely difficult for me because I am from Tulsa,” Barton said. Fortunately, the program paired each student with a mentor, who matched the career interest of the students. Rachel Hubbard, associate director and general manager of KOSU radio, helped Barton navigate the city and find a subject.
“We found this amazing subject who works for The Curbside Chronicle, which is a magazine that caters to the homeless and the low income,” Barton explained. “They are able to sell the magazine for minimum two dollars instead of panhandling.” This experience is not only a résumé booster, but also allows them to save up money toward a house and car.
A year ago, Oklahoma City passed an ordinance that restricts panhandling in certain areas. “It hindered Curbside a little bit because you can’t stand in the median,” she said. “With the new law coming into action, the police officers who were enforcing it didn’t quite understand the logistics of the law.”
Barton followed Marquise Benningfield, a Curbside Chronicle vender, for a day to better understand his life and to see how the ordinance impacted his business. “It can be very difficult because it’s really hot; and for eight hours a day, he is standing at his station,” Barton said. Everyday necessities like finding water, food and a bathroom are major concerns for him.
Benningfield moved from Tulsa to Oklahoma City to receive help for his drug addiction, but instead, he was being used for free labor. The Curbside Chronicle provided him a job and a chance to quickly get off the streets. “A lot of people do support him and the business because they understand that they are not just panhandling,” Barton said. “Marquise mentioned that he gets a lot of respect for it.”
After some initial confusion with the police and The Curbside Chronicle, the police understand the mission of the magazine, and the vendors found safer places to sell. “The director of The Curbside Chronicle stated they have a good relationship with the police now. No one has been ticketed, and no one has been sent to jail for it,” Barton said.
Along with her written story, Barton produced an audio and photo journal story. “The audio portion was not narrated. We were not allowed to have our voice in it at all,” Barton said. She learned to naturally coax her interviewees on how to tell their story without her voice. She also studied how to superimpose sounds including car horns, rustling of magazines and wind.
“One of the things I learned was that one person doesn’t just do one job,” she said; and in the world of journalism, the number one rule is relevancy. “Is this newsworthy? and why are people interested?”
Check out Barton’s work here.