About the Program

3 Feb

IJJ and OU Conduct ‘Immigration in the Heartland’ Program

The Institute for Justice and Journalism (IJJ) and the University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication teamed up to conduct a groundbreaking program on “Immigration in the Heartland” in the spring of 2010.

Fifteen IJJ Fellows participated in the journalism fellowship program focusing on the often-controversial issues of immigration in the nation’s interior states. The program was funded by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

The program, “Immigration in the Heartland,” was conducted by the Institute for Justice and Journalism (IJJ) in partnership with the University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication and its Institute for Research and Training. A new class of Fellows will be selected for the program’s second round in March of 2011.

The 2010 program opened April 10 with discussions with experts, field reporting and professional workshops at OU in Norman, Okla., and in Oklahoma City. The program moved to Dallas, April 14-16, where the emphasis was immigration law, immigration courts and a briefing by officials of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The IJJ Fellows — from newspapers, television, public radio and an independent reporting program — are:

  • Shajia Ahmad, reporter, The Garden City (Kan.) Telegram.
  • Elizabeth Baier, reporter and producer, Minnesota Public Radio.
  • Vallery M. Brown, investigative team reporter, The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City.
  • Thomas Burr, senior Washington correspondent, The Salt Lake Tribune.
  • Chris Casey, reporter and columnist, The Tribune in Greeley, Colo.
  • Stephanie Czekalinski, reporter, the Columbus Dispatch and editor for Fronteras, its Spanish-language weekly.
  • Ginnie Graham, reporter, Tulsa World.
  • Ron Jackson, projects reporter, The Oklahoman.
  • Miriam Jordan, senior special writer, Los Angeles bureau of The Wall Street Journal.
  • Pilar Marrero, senior political reporter and blogger for La Opinión and other ImpreMedia newspapers.
  • Lee Rood, investigations editor at the Des Moines Register.
  • Mary Sanchez, metropolitan columnist for The Kansas City Star and syndicated columnist with Tribune Media Services.
  • Patricia Schneider, reporter, The Capital Times in Madison, Wis.
  • David Stout, producer and reporter, T30 Noticias, the Telemundo affiliate in Oklahoma.
  • Sarah Terry-Cobo, reporter, the Center for Investigative Reporting.

The Fellows have produced project stories drawing from the fellowship experience.  In addition to publication or broadcast in the Fellows’ designated outlets, the completed work is featured on the Heartland program’s site.

The Fellows’ stories “help inform both policymakers and the public about significant issues relating to immigration in the nation’s heartland,” said Steve Montiel, IJJ board president.

IJJ Senior Fellow Warren Vieth, a visiting professor at OU’s Gaylord College, served as project director. Working with Vieth, a former Los Angeles Times reporter and editor, as program faculty were four IJJ Senior Fellows: Daniel Kowalski, an immigration attorney who is editor-in-chief of Bender’s Immigration Bulletin; Julio César Ortiz, a reporter at KMEX Univision 34 in Los Angeles; Dianne Solís, a senior writer at the Dallas Morning News, and Frank O. Sotomayor, a former L.A. Times editor.

Among topics covered in conference sessions:

  • “Immigration law 101,” conducted by Kowalski.
  • Ethical issues in immigration coverage, conducted by Sharon Rosenhause, IJJ board secretary and former managing editor of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and Sotomayor.
  • The ICE raid in Postville, Iowa, and its impacts, featuring Prof. Mark Grey, director of the Iowa Center for Immigrant Leadership and Integration, and Tony Leys, award-winning reporter for the Des Moines Register.
  • Impact of HB1804, Oklahoma’s immigration law, featuring Carol Helm, president of Immigration Reform for Oklahoma Now; Rep. Shane Jett (R-Tecumseh),  and Richard Klinge, of Catholic Charities of Oklahoma.
  • Outlook for national immigration legislation, featuring Donald Kerwin, vice president for programs at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, and T. Douglas Stump, a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association Executive Committee.
  • An address by, and Q and A with, Jason Riley, editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal and author of “Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders.”
  • A speech, followed by Q and A, by Dan Stein, president of Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
  • Issues in Muslim communities, featuring Mohamed Elibiary, founder of the Freedom and Justice Foundation in Dallas, and Razi Hashmi, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Oklahoma City.
  • Immigration reporting techniques and tips, conducted by Ortiz and Solís.

The Fellows also spent a day doing field reporting in Oklahoma City, visiting a high school, meeting with a successful Mexican restaurant owner who arrived in the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant, reporting at the Latino Community Development Agency, and interviewing both legal and illegal immigrants.

With resources at news organizations stretched thin, it has become more challenging than ever for journalists to undertake in-depth reporting projects. The IJJ fellowship enhanced the journalists’ expertise in this subject and provided resources for more incisive exploration of the topic.

OU’s Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, in Norman, Okla., offers course work in three main focus areas: journalism, media arts and strategic communication.

The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation was established by Edith Kinney Gaylord to support projects designed to improve the quality and ethical standards of journalism. It is based in Oklahoma City.

The Institute for Justice and Journalism supports in-depth reporting and commentary about justice issues through its Justice and Journalism Fund, professional fellowships and its web site, www.justnews.org. IJJ is an independent 501(c)3 organization, building on nine years of affiliation with USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.

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