Tannette Johnson-Elie, Editor of the Urban Voice
Tannette Johnson-Elie

Dear Readers,

I proudly present the 2019 edition of the Urban Voice, the online publication of Marquette University’s Urban Journalism Workshop (UJW). This wonderful publication culminates the hard work, diligence and successful storytelling of seven talented young men and women, who spent two weeks undergoing intensive training in journalism and digital news gathering here at MU.

This group of eager and ambitious high school students came to us from several Milwaukee area high schools, including Mesmer and Franklin high schools, along with students from Green Bay, Kansas City and Chicago.

We welcomed this year’s cohort to UJW2019 on Father’s Day with an orientation, check-in and dinner at a campus dining hall with their families. After a good night’s rest, these budding young journalists reported to work first thing Monday morning and were put to hard work. This was, by far, the most resourceful and adaptable group of students I have seen in my four years of instructing UJW. They certainly were some of the best headline writers I’ve seen in the program.

As their lead instructor, my primary job was to help students learn the nuts and bolts of journalism, including news writing and reporting; interviewing; beat coverage; digital storytelling; ethics and Associated Press Style. For the first time, students were taught to understand social justice and why it is important in journalism. This included several interactive activities and conversations about race and the importance of diversity in news coverage.

Nonetheless, I could not have done this workshop alone. For this reason, I am grateful to have had the guidance and assistance of UJW Director Sheena Carey and the support of Marquette’s wonderful faculty and staff.

Students received instruction from noted experts from Marquette, including Tim Cigelske, director of social media; Photographer Dan Johnson; James Brust, director of the Wakerly Media Lab; and Dave Umhoefer, my former Milwaukee Journal Sentinel colleague and a Pulitzer Prize Winner, who is director of the O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism at Marquette.

I would be remiss if I did not give credit to Laura White, Marquette’s multimedia manager, for her outstanding work on our Urban Voice website. Let’s also not overlook the outstanding work by Mahdi Gransberry, who took the individual and group photos of our students that are featured within the pages of this website. Finally, a special thank you goes to Laura Schram, Student Success and Recruitment Coordinator, who gave students a wonderful tour of the newly renovated television and digital media studios in Johnston Hall. Students also got the chance to tour the entirety of Marquette’s beautiful, urban campus thanks to Admissions.

After three days of instruction, it was time to get down to business. Students were divided into reporting teams and set out across the city to explore what social justice looks like in Milwaukee and who’s at the forefront of making changes to address the pervasive inequities in the city.

Social justice topics covered by UJW students include public health; youth empowerment; culture and arts; urban initiatives; equity and access; and higher education. Their assignments put them in the path of some of the most prominent leaders and newsmakers in Milwaukee; the kind of people that your average high school student might not normally meet.

Students spent countless hours writing, making multiple revisions to their stories, and conducting additional reporting and research. Although most of them did not enjoy the arduous editing process that is customary in most newsrooms, they gritted their teeth and did whatever they had to do to produce the best stories possible, both written and digitally.

However, it wasn’t all work and no play. Students had some downtime to enjoy local attractions like Jazz in the Park, attending a Milwaukee Brewers game, and hanging out at Summerfest.

A highlight of the workshop was a tour students took of WISN Channel 12 News during which time they got to see breaking news unfold before their eyes as the station scrambled to cover a truck explosion that killed two people and caused a massive backup that shutdown portions of I-94 in Racine and Kenosha counties; the deaths of two police officers in the region and the tragic accidental shooting death of a 5-year-old boy, all of which happened in one morning.

They also watched the first night of the Democratic Presidential Debates and kept a scorecard on the candidates, although none of them could come to consensus as to who they thought won.

Despite an intense schedule of training sessions, guest speakers, interviews, social outings and production of their news stories, these young journalists did not lose sight of their main purpose: to create quality journalism about pertinent issues in the community and those who are doing social justice work in Milwaukee.

Let me tell you that the quality of work these young people produced will not disappoint. Now, without further delay, it is my sincere pleasure to present to you the 2019 edition of the Urban Voice.

Tannette Johnson-Elie