SRL Connected Educator of the Month: December 2017


Damien’s first real introduction to Student Reporting Labs was this past summer when he made the trip from Blackstone, Massachusetts to Washington, D.C. for our annual teacher workshop. There, SRL staff first witnessed his passion and commitment for education and storytelling. During the fall semester, Damien and some of his students at Blackstone-Millville Regional High School were able to work closely with SRL staffers on stories for this year’s Making It Work assignment, chronicling the revitalization of abandoned mills in their community. 

What is your teaching philosophy when it comes to storytelling?   

My philosophy to storytelling stems from my background in photography. I want to tell stories through compelling images. Images that are dynamic, thoughtful, and interesting. In my short time with Student Reporting Labs, I have really enjoyed merging my love of visual storytelling with the vitally important journalist guidelines of honest, fact based reporting. It seems that there is currently a political and social climate that is antagonistic towards quality reporting and storytelling, so any little bit that I can guide students towards being fair and truthful storytellers, I see as incredibly important.

How can student journalism help promote a greater understanding of the world?

I feel like student journalism can help promote a greater understanding of the world through awareness and engagement. I know in my class, having been exposed to SRL, students have begun to question other issues that we face today. Things like Net Neutrality, our political parties, climate change and so many other important issues that impact everyone. I think with the increased awareness comes compassion and a drive to tell the stories of those who haven’t been heard before. The youth voices, the elderly voices, the voices of marginalized people and places. The more students are engaged on these issues, the more hope I have that the future can be a better place.

How can we get youth more interested in the news?

Getting students more interested in the news is vitally important to create a knowledgeable and engaged future generation. I believe programs like SRL, where students are asked to tell their stories and report on issues important to them, are vital in making sure they get involved in the news process early on. Exposing students to current events and news in an environment like school can also facilitate healthy discussion and can evolve opinions and mindsets from being closed-off and narrow, to become something more open and understanding.

What would life look like without public media? 

Pretty dark! I don’t want to think about it. Public media is incredibly important to democracy and to the public good. If there were no public media, all of our news and information would be funneled through corporations looking to make money, not inform. Of course, there would be some honest attempts at journalism, but I wouldn’t want to trust companies to decide for themselves.

What do you hope to accomplish with SRL?  

I am so excited to be a part of SRL and PBS NewsHour. I feel, especially in today’s political and cultural climate, that honest news and a respect of truth and fact are important to impart on my students. I hope that I can help facilitate students telling their stories, telling others important stories and really engage them on a social and cultural level. I hope that some will continue down the storytelling paths of digital journalism and documentary film making in the future. But, even if they don’t pursue this field professionally, hopefully they will have gained a more advanced visual literacy in regards to world around them.